Your questions answered by Jean Blacker

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Q: I suffer terribly with hay fever: streaming eyes, itchy nose and sometimes even a sore throat. It’s like having a permanent cold. Are there any natural remedies that might help?

A: For many the warmer weather will come as a welcome relief especially after the recent cold snap; however if you’re one of the 15 million people in the UK affected by hay fever, you may not be hanging up your hanky just yet.

Also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, hay fever is an allergic reaction to airborne substances such as pollen.

In the UK grass pollen is the biggest trigger, affecting approximately 95% of hay fever sufferers. Not surprisingly most people tend to suffer mainly during the spring and summer months, when grasses and flowers come into bloom.

Pollen causes cells to release histamine and other chemicals, resulting in a runny, itchy nose, blocked sinuses, sneezing, redness and watering of the eyes, and/or a sore, itchy throat.

Needless to say, a high pollen count can soon put a dampener on a lovely spring day.

Happily, however, preventative measures can help.

Don’t be an early bird! Pollen counts tend to peak between 5am and 10am, so limit outdoor activity during the morning hours.

Check prevailing winds and pollen counts and remember that wind dried clothes can become pollen catchers. Hanging clothes inside will keep them pollen free.

As far as diet is concerned, vitamin C supplements and quercetin (found in onions, apples and black tea) can also help as they both have antihistamine activity. Likewise, vitamin B can help relieve blocked sinuses.

Finally, herbal remedies can be very effective.

Luffa helps to combat sneezing, blocked and runny noses.

It is a yellow tropical plant that is usually used with a variety of other plants to help combat the symptoms of hay fever and similar allergies. It is often teamed with Galphimia glauca for example, which is especially useful for reducing irritation of the eyes. Try Luffa tincture or tablets from A. Vogel.

Luffa can be taken three times a day for a month before the hay fever season begins, as a preventative, or every two hours during an acute attack. A nasal spray is also available for immediate relief.

For further advice, ask at your local health store.