Scientists at Imperial College London have discovered that hay fever symptoms can be controlled for “several years” if sufferers are given pills or injections which acclimatise them to pollen over the course of three years. “Exposing people to grass pollen in this way is a very effective treatment for people who have really debilitating hay fever,” said Professor Stephen Durham, head of allergy and clinical immunology at the National Heart and Lung Institute. The benefits of a two-year course of immunotherapy, though, lasted less than one year.
Hay fever, officially known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is thought to affect at least 1 in 5 people across the UK. The condition usually develops during childhood or adolescence. Symptoms, which include sudden sneezing, a watery nasal discharge, puffy, itchy eyes and fatigue, may be triggered by grass pollen, tree pollen, weed pollen or mould spores. Sufferers’ immune systems interpret the allergen (e.g. grass pollen) as a threat, and respond by releasing histamine into the bloodstream. This results in inflammation of the sinuses, nose and membranes of the eyes. Treatment options include antihistamine and corticosteroid medication.
Following a review of scientific evidence collected to date, researchers in Australia recently reported that acupuncture appears to be an effective treatment for some hay fever sufferers. “The success of the treatment was incredible,” hay fever sufferer Tom Laverick, who had one acupuncture treatment per week for three weeks, followed by three monthly top-up treatments, told the Yorkshire Post. “After just a couple of treatments, I was hardly suffering at all. It really did feel like the first time I’d actually been able to enjoy summer rather than dreading it and wanting to hide inside. If anyone suffers from hay fever, I really couldn’t recommend acupuncture highly enough.”
If your symptoms are less severe, you could try wearing wraparound sunglasses when the pollen count is high (over 50 grains per cubic metre of air) and applying a small amount of Vaseline to your nasal openings in order to trap pollen grains.