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According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, hay fever (otherwise known as allergic rhinitis) is fairly common, with 1 in 5 adult and children sufferers across Australia and New Zealand, with symptoms including runny and/or itchy nose, itchy watering eyes, and sneezing. Complications of allergic rhinitis can include sleep disturbances and tiredness during the day, headaches and poor concentration, recurrent infections (mostly ears in children and sinuses in adults) and asthma that may be more difficult to control. Contrary to the name ‘hay fever’, no actual fever occurs (1).
Hay fever is caused by the body’s over-reactive immune response to common environmental substances. These may include, but are not limited to, dust mites, pollen, moulds or animal fur. Allergy testing helps to narrow down the cause of the problem and can help to decrease symptoms if you are able to minimise contact. While not always easy, Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia have found some ways to control exposure, such as keeping windows and doors closed when windy, during storms and when mowing is occurring outside, avoiding being outdoors when pollen counts are particularly high (sunny and windy days and early in the morning); using a dehumidifier or air conditioner to keep humidity indoors below 50%, using dust mite bedding covers and wash bedding and soft toys in water above 55°C, and vacuuming weekly and double-bagging or using a HEPA filter (if allergic to dust mites); if possible, looking into particular breeds of animals that are low allergenic, keeping pets outside whenever possible and changing clothes and washing hands after playing with animals (2).
Medications, like antihistamines and corticosteroid sprays, are available to help treat the symptoms of hay fever, but there are also some natural treatments that are available.
Prebiotics are substances, mainly known as oligosaccharides, that feed the beneficial bacteria living in the intestines. Prebiotics are found in foods such as artichoke, asparagus, bananas, garlic, wheat, onions and leek, or in oligosaccharide-rich substances like honey. Making sure prebiotics are readily available to feed the good bacteria helps to maintain healthy beneficial bacteria. The beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, are essential for gut health and research suggests that the health and number of the good bacteria in the intestines influences the way the immune system functions (3). Occasionally taking a good probiotic supplement, as well as topping up regularly with probiotic-rich foods such as yoghurt, can help to keep the good bacteria flourishing in the gut and the immune system functioning properly.
Saline washes can be invaluable in washing the mucous membranes of the nose to keep them moist and clean them of any pollen particles, thereby reducing irritation. These are available pre-prepared from pharmacies and health stores.
Olive Leaf Extract, known for its high antioxidant levels, has also been shown to exert an anti-inflammatory effect, which could prove useful in decreasing the inflammatory response involved in allergies (4). Olive Leaf Extract has also been shown to have an antioxidant action in the body and has shown cardioprotective effects in research (5).
Quercetin, found in foods such as apples, berries, beans, black tea, grapes and red wine, as well as in supplement form, acts as an anti-inflammatory in the treatment of allergies. Research has shown that quercetin inhibited histamine release in people who had mild to severe allergic rhinitis (6).
Peppermint has also shown positive results in inhibiting histamine release and reducing allergic nasal symptoms (7). Inhaling peppermint oil in a diffuser or applied topically can help to relieve congestion in the nasal passages caused by allergies.
This allergy season, don’t just suffer through it. Try these natural and easy remedies and feel better, sooner.
1. ALLERGIC RHINITIS AND ITS IMPACT ON ASTHMA (ARIA) 2008, ‘ARIA 2008 Report (Revised)’, Allergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol 63, pp. 8-160, accessed 12 July 2015, https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ASCIA_PCC_Is_it_allergic_rhinitis_2015.pdf
2. Minimising Indoor Allergens at Home, Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, accessed 11 July 2015, http://www.allergyfacts.org.au/images/pdf/minimisation.pdf
3. The role of probiotics in the management of allergic disease. Boyle RJ and Tang ML. (2006). Clin Exp Allergy. 2006 May;36(5):568-76, accessed 13 July 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16650040
4. Olive tree (Olea europaea) leaves: potential beneficial effects on human health. El, S. N., & Karakaya, S. (2009). Nutrition Reviews, 67(11), 632–8, accessed 13 July 2015, http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00248.x
5. Antioxidant and other biological activities of phenols from olives and olive oil. Visioli, F., Poli, A., & Gall, C. (2002). Medicinal Research Reviews, 22(1), 65–75, accessed 11 July 2015, http://doi.org/10.1002/med.1028
6. Histochemical and functional characteristics of metachromatic cells in the nasal epithelium in allergic rhinitis: studies of nasal scrapings and their dispersed cells. Otsuka H, Inaba M, Fujikura T, Kunitomo M. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1995 Oct;96(4):528-36, accessed 11 July 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7560665
7. Antiallergic effect of flavonoid glycosides obtained from Mentha piperita L. Inoue T, Sugimoto Y, Masuda H, Kamei C. Biol Pharm Bull. 2002 Feb;25(2):256-9, accessed 11 July 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Antiallergic+effect+of+flavonoid+glycosides+obtained+from+Mentha+piperita+L
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