Beat Hayfever! A guide from Melbourne
Spring has sprung, and while some of us look forward to longer days and warmer weather, others dread the curse of hayfever that comes along with it.
For anyone who doesn’t suffer with it, imagine feeling like you have a really bad cold for a few weeks, or even months – runny nose, uncontrollable sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, sore throat, sinus headache and generally feeling unwell. Add to this all the extra, peripheral stuff – like feeling irritable, tired and anti-social – and it’s easy to see why hayfever is simply the pits.
Melbourne is said to be one of Australia’s worst cities for hayfever sufferers, a result of a dry and windy climate, and this year is predicted to be one of the worst. As someone who has suffered from hayfever for years, I’ve tried almost every trick in the book, to varying degrees of success. And here is what I recommend – and before we continue, I should mention that this article cannot replace qualified medical advice, it is simply my story of a lifetime of sneezing.
If you can fix your environment, do. Melbourne’s plane trees bring a European-style ambiance to the streets, but are notorious for being hayfever triggers. If you’re moving house, look at which trees are lining your street. If you’ve got one outside your house, don’t open the window in the morning, especially on a windy day. Additionally, check the pollen count each day, and arm yourself with any of the below solutions before you head out for the day.
So. Much. Medicine. I think Australia’s pharmaceutical industry could thrive off my antihistamine intake alone. I don’t like filling my body with medicine, but it does help a lot. Note that my comments on these are not prescriptive, as different people find different medicines more or less useful. Always use these according to the instructions in the packet, or a doctor’s advice.
Tablets – I use Telfast 180, but they also come in weaker “60” and “120” versions. They are the best I’ve found. Zyrtec is not bad, Aerius didn’t do much, and I found Claratyne to be a waste of money. But other people swear by it.
Eye drops – Polytears don’t stop the itching, but they do lubricate and immediately “flush” your eye of any dust particles – I always keep a bottle with me. Livostin are a good first-line anti-allergy option, and Zaditen is also good. When my eyes got out of control (like, weeping from irritation) my doctor proscribed my Patanol – it’s strong, and to remain effective it should be used sparingly, but it works. Stay away from Naphcon-A – initially it works really well, but eyes seem to become dependent on it, making them more itchy when you stop using it. To really soothe your eyes, keep your eye drops in the fridge!
Nasal sprays – All the major brands like Telfast and Zyrtec produce nasal sprays, as do Nasonex, Beconase and Flixonase, but I’ve has the most success with Rhinocort. It’s a preventative measure – it needs to be used regularly (like a therapy, not a treatment), but it seems to stop the worst of the sneezing.
There’s a whole host of things you can do to help your hayfever without turning to medicine – some of them reduce the symptoms, while others simply provide welcome comfort.
Johar Joshanda – This Pakistani miracle herbal mix soothes the throat and clears the sinuses – add one sachet to a cup of hot tea and sip away! Find it in good Pakistani or Indian grocery stores.
Peppermint tea – It won’t take away the irritation, but it’s soothing and aromatic – heaven when you’re stuck with the sniffles.
Soy milk coffee -They say you shouldn’t have dairy while you’re streaming mucous from your nose – and that may or may not be wise – but a hot soy latte perks you up and feels somehow more palatable than cow’s milk when you’re all blocked up.
Cool compress – When my eyes are irritated, they almost feel like they’re burning. Slouch down into a sofa, rest your head back, close your eyes and place moist compress over your eyes and brow and let your mind wander elsewhere for 10 minutes – it’s bliss.
Jal neti – This one is a bit hardcore, but if you’re game, it might just work. Another wonder from the subcontinent, Jal Neti is a traditional yogic technique to clear the sinuses. A small ‘neti pot’ with a spout is filled with lukewarm, slightly salty water. Breathe through your mouth, place the spout in your left nostril and lean your head slightly to the right and front. Gently tip the pot up and adjust the angle of your head until the water flows out of the pot, into your sinuses, then drains out of the opposite nostril! Repeat on the other side. Yes, it’s gross, but it sounds worse than it feels, and the relief you feel afterwards is remarkable. Neti pots are available from good health food, yoga and homeopathic stores, and the technique can be researched online and refined – it takes practice. And needless to say, do it in the shower where you can wash away the contents of your sinuses once your done.
Stay cool – It’s not called hay”fever” for nothing – all that itching and irritation can make you feel hot and bothered. Wear cool, comfortable clothes, especially if it’s warm.
Wear sunglasses – When there’s pollen in the air, sunglasses will deflect at least some of it.
Wash your face regularly – Especially if you are in a dusty or pollen-laden environment, keep your face clean to avoid the risk of rubbing dust into your eyes or nose.