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There's something in the air; YOUR HEALTH.

Byline: MATTHEW BARBOUR

IF the mere thought of a summer picnic is enough to turn you into a blotchy, sneezy, eye-rubbing mess, you're definitely not alone.

According to latest data, some 18 million Brits now suffer the annual ordeal of hay fever - over twice the number seen in the 1980s.

And this year could be the worst yet, thanks to a new "super pollen" created when pollen from plants mixes with diesel fumes, triggering extreme hay fever and asthma.

According to Dr Paul Carson, of the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology, this makes the pollen even stickier, so it stays stubbornly stuck to your eyes, sinuses and lungs.

Heavy diesel particles also contribute to "grey fever" by preventing pollen from easily dispersing into the upper atmosphere, staying down low where it causes most problems. So what can you do to avoid it and what works if you're already suffering?

Take cover

Avoiding the cause of your sneezing is far better than dealing with any (snotty) aftermath, says Professor Jean Emberlin, of the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit at the University of Worcester.

"Hay fever can be caused by over 300 different plants, so speak to your GP for a referral to a testing clinic so you know which specific plants you need to avoid," she says. For a free pollen calendar showing the likely suspects, go to: worcester.ac.uk/ discover/pollen-calendar.html.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat and wrap-around glasses to limit exposure to your problem zones.

Emberlin says: "Pollen sticks to clothes and hair, so shower before going to bed, keep your windows shut and leave a thin sheet over your bed during the day to pull off before sleeping. "

Swap daily contact lenses for weekly lenses during peak season to avoid hand-eye contact.

Pull your hair back to stop it dropping pollen into your face.

Fix it with food

One recent Harvard Medical College study found that foods rich in Vitamin E, such as eggs and oily fish, reduce the risk of developing hay fever in the first place.

Foods packed with antioxidants (peppers, berries and broccoli) and Omega-3 (sardines, salmon and seeds) help calm down the immune response to pollen.

"Eliminating mucus-forming foods, such as milk products, sugar and excessive starch, reduces catarrh and streaming," says naturopath Roger Newman Turner, of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine.

Cure it with quercetin, a yellow pigment found in onions, apples and citrus fruits. And add a generous portion of garlic, ginger and chilli to your food too - they've all been shown to ease symptoms.

A 30-smooch

"Nasal sprays are far superior to oral tablets as they're absorbed much more quickly through the thin nasal membrane and go straight to problem area," says Emberlin. Steroid-based anti-inflammatory nasal sprays, such as Flixonase (on prescription), decrease inflammation but take longer to deal with symptoms.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as Rynacrom (also on prescription), work instantly but can result in a return of nasal congestion once you stop using them.

Emberlin says: "I'd always advise regularly using seawater nasal sprays, such as Sterimar (PS8.99 for 20ml from Boots), which cleanse the nose of pollen, and relieve nasal congestion and dryness."

Down the hatch

If eye drops and nasal sprays don't deal with it, then opt for antihistamines. "They're less focused, not as fast-acting and can make you feel drowsy, but they do actually work," Emberlin says.

Choose Clarityn (PS3.50 for 14 tabs) or opt for cheaper products with the same active ingredient, loratadine, she advises. (Sainsbury's Hayfever & Allergy Loratadine, PS1.90 for 14 tabs.)

If you're looking for quality, sneeze-free shut-eye, plump for Piriton (PS2.79 for 30 tabs).

Cheer up

What feels good is good for you, according to latest research. A daily 15-minute dose of laughter can lessen allergy symptoms by stimulating chemicals that block the production of histamine, the American College of Cardiology reports.

Japanese scientists even found a 30-minute smooch reduces the quantity of histamine pumped out by your body and dampens the allergic reaction.

Ban the booze

Brits flock to their nearest beer garden at the slightest hint of sunshine, but for hay fever sufferers, this is a bad idea on two fronts.

Being outdoors for prolonged periods increases your exposure to pollen, but to add insult to injury, your favourite tipple is likely to make your symptoms worse.

Your body produces histamine as part of the allergy reaction, which in turn, causes inflammation to fend off any perceived attack.

However, alcohol also contains histamine, which can aggravate your symptoms. It can also be mildly dehydrating, which can stimulate your body into producing even more histamine.

Instead, grab a green tea, which research suggests has has an anti-histamine effect.

Steaming the tide

If you're already in the middle of a hay fever attack and are getting that bunged-up feeling, try putting a towel over your head and breathing in steam - this should help to open your airways. Popping a little decongestant, such as Vicks, in the bowl can also speed the process along.

A 30-minute smooch or a 15-minute dose of laughter have been found to lessen the symptons
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 2, 2017
Words:854
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