hay fever hay fever… you know how to do it !

hay fever

ah, hay fever season !

For about 20% of the Australian population that means feeling blocked up, sneezing, and keeping that box of tissues handy !

Hay Fever, or more correctly allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction to plant or tree pollen.  If we want to be really correct, “hay fever” is caused by grass pollen only, and reaction to other plant or tree pollen is really “pollinosis” – but let’s stick with the commonly used name of “hay fever”.

Some people may have hay fever seasonally, when air born pollens are at their peak.  Others suffer “hay fever” symptoms all year round (perennial allergic rhinitis).

Many with hay fever seem predisposed for more frequent sinus infections, and often suffer fatigue from resultant poor quality sleep.  Those with asthma often also struggle with hay fever (about 80%), and having hay fever can make asthma more difficult to control.

hay fever grass

what causes hay fever ?

Hay fever is caused by an immune response to inhaled pollen.

The fine hairs and mucus in the nose trap pollens and dust, to prevent entry into the lungs.  Those with hay fever have an allergic reaction to those particles.  The immune system treats those harmless particles as potentially dangerous, and the body tries to attack them.  The nasal passages then produce more mucus to expel the particles and become inflamed.

The time of year when people suffer depends on the type of pollen they are allergic to.  Pollen seems to make it’s impact known, from high to low.  Tree pollen arrives first, in late winter.  Grass pollen, from just above the ground, is more evident during spring and into summer.  The ground-dwelling weed pollens impact hay fever sufferers in autumn.  So, hay fever can have a long season, depending the type of pollen that you’re allergic to.

Those with perennial allergic rhinitis suffer all year, and not only from pollens.  Dust mites, moulds, animal air or other air born allergens are what often causes the same type of allergic reaction.

hay fever pollen

Symptoms of hay fever

The main symptoms that present with hay fever include:

  • A runny, and congested nose
  • Sneezing.
  • Eyes become irritated, watery, itchy and red.
  • Itchy ears, nose and throat.
  • and headaches.

If symptoms differ from these, it’s best to seek medical advice in case the issue is not actually hay fever !

hay fever flowers

Treatment of hay fever

For most, avoiding exposure to pollen is their key form of defence.

Staying indoors on windy days or when there is a high pollen count is often key.  Keeping windows closed and car air conditioning on air recirculation helps.  Showering when arriving home and rinsing eyes.  And always carrying a supply of tissues.

Medications won’t cure the allergies, but many can relieve symptoms:

  • antihistamines can help reduce symptoms for sneezing and irritated eyes, but may not help severe nasal blockages.
  • corticosteroid nasal sprays help when used regularly, and are often used in conjunction with antihistamines.
  • decongestant sprays can help to unblock the nose, but can cause long term problems wth the nose if used for more than a few days
  • decongestant tablets can also help the nose to dry, but may cause other stimulant side effects.
  • salt water nasal sprays may also help relieve symptoms.

For some, allergen immunotherapy (also known as desensitisation) may be a treatment option. Repeatedly introducing small doses of allergen extracts may switch off the allergic reaction.  Note that this is a long term treatment option, usually over a few years, via clinical immunology/allergy specialist.

hay fever breathe

Bowen Therapy for Hay Fever

Bowen Therapy is a very gentle form of bodywork.  Small, gentle, precise moves are made on muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves, triggering the body to begin a healing process.

While most commonly known for helping back pain and postural issues, Bowen Therapy also helps calm the body’s nervous system.  The entire body is influenced during a Bowen treatment, through restoring balance in the autonomic nervous system.  The Bowen moves prompt a shift from the stressed, sympathetic “fight or flight” mode, to parasympathetic “rest and repair” dominance.

Bowen moves impact the body in a number of ways.  Nerve receptors activated during treatment act to calm the body and mind, and facilitate the body’s ability to heal.  There is a clear influence of Bowen moves along the body’s fascia lines – supporting muscle coordination, postural alignment, and overall structural and functional integrity.  Bowen moves also impact the lymphatic system, providing support to the body’s immune system.

Specific moves for targeted support of the respiratory system and sinuses have helped many hay fever sufferers.  Within a few treatments, many people feel a difference that lasts for months, being able to enjoy life in the outdoors again !