Nutrition and the effects of hay fever

Image of sunflower and honey pot

Is there a link between nutrition and hay fever?

From decades of medical research through to those famous 'home remedies', the role that food and nutrition has in fighting and preventing pollen allergies such as hay fever has been constantly debated.

Around 10 million people in the UK suffer from pollen allergies such as hay fever, which happens as a result of an allergy to the pollen which is given out by plants and flowers. While many people rely on traditional hay fever tablets, others have believed in other treatments - including certain foods and home remedies.

But which ones actually work as a hay fever treatment and does the science stack up against the theory? Here, we look at some of the other alternative ways to manage your pollen allergy.

Foods

Eating foods which are rich in sources of omega-3, which has been shown to reduce inflammation, could help reduce coughs and wheezes. Omega-3 is most commonly found in oily fish such as mackerel and sardines and could prove beneficial if eaten regularly. It could be easier to include in your diet as a supplement, but it is best in its purest form.

Garlic can also be a good way to battle the symptoms of hay fever. As dust and pollen cause inflammation, your body produces histamine, which is why sufferers experience a blocked nose and congestion. Garlic is actually a good source of antihistamine - which combats the histamine chemical produced by your body and reduces the effect of hay fever symptoms.

A cup of tea, either regular or green, is also known to contain an antioxidant known as quercetin, which prevents the inflammation of hay fever too. So if you're bunged up, brew up!

Honey

One of the most famous home remedies for hay fever should come as sweet relief to most. It's been said that taking a teaspoon of honey each day can help your body build a natural defence against the pollen which was used in its creation.

Unfortunately, studies have found that honey provides no such cure-all effect except perhaps in its antibacterial properties, which would only aid a more general malaise. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that honey may be preferable to some antihistamine based over-the-counter cures which can leave you feeling drowsy.

Other home remedies

If you want to reduce the symptoms of hay fever during the warmer months, staying indoors during the typical peak pollen hours of 10am to 3pm will reduce your chances of coming into contact with pollen, and should prove a viable treatment for hay fever.

Alternatively, you can consider other home remedies such as aromatherapy. Add a drop or two of chamomile or eucalyptus oil to a steam treatment and breathe deeply. This should help remove cloying pollen from your nasal passages and relieve those irritating symptoms.

You can also take other steps to lower the chances of irritation. Try drying your clothes indoors rather than hanging them out to collect pollen and other allergens, and wash your hair every night so that the pollen doesn't transfer to your pillow for all-night exposure.

Last updated: 5 March 2014