Dora Tambuza gives her personal experience of battling with allergies and tips on how to deal with hay fever...
Don’t let the weather up North fool you. Spring is here ladies, but for a lot of us, that means hay fever is back. Yes, it’s time to pop those pills, take out that inhaler and grip those eye drops tighter than a mulberry clutch on sale. As a fellow sufferer, I can relate; I haven't gone through a single Spring without sneezing my nose off, but this year, it only got worse.
While back home in France for the Easter break, I was happily lounging on my balcony, enjoying the sun and fresh air from morning till tea time. That is, until hay fever popped round to say hello. Cue the uncontrollable sneezing, itchy eyes and sense of hatred towards the sun. However, this time I was also finding it hard to breathe, which was not normal. It was like my body was becoming hyper sensitive to the pollen. I always thought you were meant to grow out of allergies, not into them?
I decided to go to the doctor and after a couple of tests he whipped out a foot-long prescription with a lot more medical jargon than usual. On that list was an inhaler, I couldn’t believe it, I had asthma. Dealing with itchy eyes and a runny nose was one thing but needing an inhaler to help me breathe was another. My meds case was already full and I was sick of having to lug around so much stuff, just to be able to walk outside.
My doctor, noticing the ‘my life is over’ expression, told me that my asthma wouldn’t last. My shortness of breath was a result of my hay fever. He said that most hay fever sufferers have periods of time when their allergies peak, mine was now. Although it all depends on what you’re allergic to and when it’s highly present in the air.
The pollen I was allergic to was present mostly in April and May. I was relieved, but not happy. I’d been suffering for so long and wanted it to stop. Therefore, I searched long and hard about ways of ‘curing’ hay fever and proceeded to bombard my doctor with alternatives.
These are some of the options I found for hay fever sufferers:
Hay fever Injections My friend’s younger sister got injections that subsequently cured her allergies. The injections actually have a small amount of pollen in them, so it makes your body get used to it with desensitisation as the end result. The treatment lasts for two years and you get an injection every week (or fortnight) depending on how bad your allergies are. This is the last resort and you have to go to a specialist allergy clinic after referral from your GP.
Complementary medicine Although there is little evidence-based research in this area, some people believe these therapies work for them:
- Butterbur, also known as ‘bog rhubarb’, is a herbal remedy that is believed to have the same effect as an antihistamine, but without causing drowsiness.
- Echinacea, usually used to treat colds, is said to reduce your sensitivity to allergens.
- Euphrasia (or Eyebright) comes as eye drops and is sometimes used for symptoms of hay fever such as watery or itchy eyes.
My doctor said that alternative treatments to prescribed tablets were only to be used when the medicine stopped having an effect. That wasn’t my case, but wouldn’t you rather just get rid of an annoying allergy? Even though I hate injections with a passion, I’m considering that option, but I would still need to consult a GP and get their approval. If I’m not referred to an allergy specialist, I’ll just continue to suffer, but after dealing with hay fever for 20 years, I've had enough.
Here are my tips on how to deal with having a constant cold:
- Don’t sleep with the window open, no matter how hot it might get. While you sleep you might inhale pollen in the wee hours of the morning. Not a great way to start the day.
- When you do wake up, take your tablets before you do anything! That gives them more time to take effect before you go outside.
- During the day, try not to touch your eyes or your nose unnecessarily. You’ll have an eye watering sneezing fit or might actually put pollen in your eyes.
- Another way to protect yourself is to wear sunglasses. Having hay fever is a great excuse to wear sunnies no matter what the weather’s like. You could also opt for transparent lenses in a wayfarer frame. Geek chic and life saving.
- Finally, make www.netweather.tv your new favourite website. It gives a daily pollen count and you can even sign up for newsletters.
Like exams (hint, hint) preparation is key. But don’t let yourself get down about not being able to go out for a picnic in Hyde Park, why not put that blanket down on some concrete for a change? If you do have a bad hay fever day, take no risks and stay inside. If things get worse make sure to call a doctor.