One joy the other’s suffering: for most, spring is associated with joyful spring feelings. For hay fever sufferers, on the other hand, the time of sneezing, tingling of the nose and reddened eyes begins. Around one in five people in Germany are affected – and the trend is rising. The hay fever attacks are triggered by pollen from trees, bushes, grasses and cereals. They enter the body via the respiratory tract and trigger an allergic reaction in hypersensitive people: the messenger substance histamine is released and the body tries to ward off the “intruders” with symptoms such as sneezing and watery eyes .
Pollen is always flying earlier
At mild temperatures, the first pollen flies in winter – the season for pollen allergy sufferers starts with hazelnut and alder between February and March. Experts are concerned about the trend that pollen count starts a little earlier each year.
The increasingly polluted air we breathe, which is particularly troublesome for us in summer, has also been shown to contribute to the increasing number of hay fever plagues.
Experts also point out that imported or spreading plants like ragweed or ash can increasingly cause allergies .
Typical symptoms of hay fever
Not everyone affected is allergic to every type of pollen. Therefore, the symptoms appear at different times – depending on when the corresponding plant blooms and its pollen is scattered. Some allergy sufferers are plagued with an allergic runny nose almost all year round .
The first signs are itchy and red eyes and a tingling sensation in the nose. Then the mucous membranes swell and there is tearing, sneezing and stuffy nose.
Here is an overview of the symptoms of hay fever:
- Runny nose with very strong watery liquid formation
- nasal congestion through the swollen mucous membrane
- violent, frequent sneezing attacks, itching
- on the eye: redness, itching, burning, sensitivity to light, lacrimation
- Headache, fatigue, fatigue, irritability
Further consequences of a pollen allergy
The symptoms mentioned are the rather harmless symptoms of a pollen allergy. People with severe allergic reactions or who have hay fever for a long time may develop other symptoms, such as:
- to cough
- difficulty in breathing
- bronchial asthma
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Migraines or
Allergy sufferers also often complain of sleep disorders , concentration problems and depression .
In some cases, allergy sufferers also experience nosebleeds . Because while the mucous membranes are already dried out by the dry air in spring, hay fever can cause inflammation in the nose and dry out the mucous membrane. As a result, some allergy sufferers repeatedly find blood in their handkerchief after blowing their nose.
Diagnosis of hay fever
The symptoms of hay fever are so typical that the suspected diagnosis is usually quickly established. The time of year when hay fever occurs indicates which pollen triggers the allergic symptoms:
- Hazel and alder pollen fly first, sometimes in winter.
- In April and May it is mainly poplar, willow, birch , oak and beech.
- Rye pollen and other cereal pollen as well as most sweet grasses in meadows and pastures begin to fly in late May to June.
- In July and August, the pollen from herbs such as nettle, mugwort and plantain are blown away by the wind.
- Around the same time, the spores of the molds Alternaria and Cladosporium are found in the air. They need a very high level of humidity to form their spores. They are therefore really active on cool and damp late summer evenings.
To diagnose a pollen allergy, skin tests (so-called prick tests) are carried out, in which pollen extracts are scratched on the skin. Blood tests (RAST test) complete the diagnosis.
Cross allergies with food
Unfortunately, even with allergies, bad luck rarely occurs alone. People suffering from a pollen allergy are often allergic to certain foods. One speaks of cross allergies. Birch pollen allergy sufferers, for example, experience tingling and swelling in the mouth and throat when they bite into the fresh apple.
These pollen-associated food allergies are among the most common food allergies:
- Birch, alder, hazel: plum, apricot, cherry, peach, apple, pear, kiwi, lychee, avocado, hazelnut, almond, carrot, celery, tomato, potato, pepper, mustard, caraway, coriander
- Grasses: cereal flour, soybean, peanut, celery, potato, parsley , thyme
- Herbs, for example mugwort, chamomile, plantain: celery, fennel, carrots, anise, curry, caraway, coriander, parsley, dill , pepper, nutmeg and hazelnut
- Natural latex: passion fruit, grapefruit, pineapple, bananas, ficus benjamini
Therapy of hay fever
Consistent treatment of pollen allergy is important because hay fever can develop an allergic asthma . It is therefore important to treat your pollen allergy consistently and in good time, so that there is no such shift to the bronchi.
If you are suspected of an allergy or if you experience severe symptoms such as hives or difficulty breathing, you should consult your doctor – in the best case, an allergist. He will advise you on treatment methods for hay fever, can do an allergy test and prescribe you stronger anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory tablets, nasal sprays or eye drops – for example with cortisone – if necessary . Your doctor will discuss with you which treatment options are best for you.
Medicines that relieve symptoms
The following medications can relieve the symptoms of hay fever:
- For prevention and treatment, calcium tablets and nasal spray or eye drops are used, which contain, for example, cromoglicic acid or nedocromil. The latter active substances are so-called mast cell stabilizers. These are intended to prevent the body from releasing histamine.
- If the nasal mucous membranes are swollen, decongestant nasal drops can be used for a short time.
- In the case of reddened eyes, short-term eye drops can help against conjunctivitis .
- Antiallergic tablets, sprays or drops – so-called antihistamines such as cetrizine or loratadine – help with severe, acute symptoms .
- There are also homeopathic remedies for prevention and treatment.
- Do not neglect nasal care: It is particularly important to keep the mucous membranes in the respiratory tract moist, because they provide decisive protection against viruses and bacteria.
- In severe cases, so-called glucocorticoids such as cortisone are also used. These suppress the body’s immune response, but should only be used in low doses, as they can also impair the functioning of the rest of the immune system.
Causal therapy – hyposensitization
The only therapy that tries to completely eliminate the allergy is hyposensitization (so-called “allergy vaccination” or specific immunotherapy). The affected person is injected with the allergen (i.e. the respective trigger of the complaints) over a period of usually three years in slowly increasing doses in order to make them insensitive to the allergen.
The immune system then usually reacts with a change, so that allergens that previously triggered a disease-causing defense reaction are tolerated again. This treatment is successful in up to 90 percent of cases.
An alternative to syringes (subcutaneous immunotherapy) is sublingual immunotherapy, in which the allergens are taken orally daily via tablets or drops.
10 tips against hay fever
The following tips will make your life as a pollen allergy easier by avoiding the triggers if possible:
- In “your” pollen flight time, keep your time outdoors to a minimum and avoid free areas (fewer pollen fly in the forest)
- Only ventilate briefly, preferably at night or during or after the rain; if it was a real shower, wait half an hour. The pollen density is highest in the morning.
- Keep windows in the house and in the car closed; possibly install room air filter and pollen filter for the car.
- Turn off ventilation and close windows when driving.
- Wash your hair every evening so that the pollen does not get into your nose and eyes at night.
- Do not undress and change in the bedroom; frequently wipe the bedrooms wet and vacuum them regularly (ideally use a vacuum cleaner with a microfilter).
- The high mountains or the sea are suitable as vacation spots.
- Anti-allergic nasal sprays, eye drops or tablets alleviate the symptoms and help you get through the hay fever period well.
- An adequate supply of the trace element zinc can in many cases alleviate the symptoms of hay fever.
- Pollen flight calendars from the pharmacy and pollen forecast by phone or on the Internet tell you when your pollen is flying.
You can also find up-to- date information on the organic weather for pollen flight on gesundheit.de .
Hay fever diet
In addition, you should try to alleviate the symptoms with the right diet:
- Eat lots of fresh fruit with vitamin C , which binds the itch-causing messenger histamine.
- Bananas, sunflower seeds and flax seeds reduce the production of histamine.
- Against the inflammatory reaction, plantain helps, which you can prepare as tea 3 times a day (pour 1 teaspoon with 200 milliliters of cold water, let it steep for 30 minutes and strain).
- Cedar oil is said to be anti-allergic – mix a drop with a little sugar once a day and let it slowly melt in your mouth.
- You can get ready-made preparations from butter bur in the pharmacy, which is also said to alleviate the allergic reactions.
In the case of severe complaints in the area of the nose, regular nasal irrigation with saline solution (for example with a so-called nasal douche) helps to clean the mucous membrane of pollen. You can keep the mucous membrane of the inner wall of the nose supple with olive oil.
Frequent infections may be an influencing factor in the development of allergies. If this assumption proves to be correct, pollen allergy sufferers in particular should try to avoid runny nose and other respiratory infections. This includes good training of the immune system, for example through exercise, regular Kneipp treatments and a balanced diet.
Causes of hay fever
Even if the predisposition to hay fever is genetic and can therefore be inherited, hay fever is not innate. Overreaction of the immune system only develops through repeated contact with the allergens.
Incidentally, many siblings reduce the risk of children developing hay fever. According to experts, this is due to the fact that the full children’s room is usually less hygienic. The child’s immune system is trained through the constant exchange of germs and allergens. Conversely, too much hygiene promotes the occurrence of allergies. In addition, hay fever can be promoted if babies are not or not sufficiently breastfed.