The year started with extreme weather and it’s continuing through summer! From the Big Chill to a heatwave, we’ve gone from one end of the scale to another. Many of us are making the most of this endless sunshine; dining al fresco, spending lazy afternoons by the paddling pool and enjoying long, balmy evenings.

But the reality for many is that this weather also means itchy and watery eyes, sneezing and runny noses, irritated skin, headaches and generally feeling tired and lethargic. It’s estimated that as many as one in five of us suffer from hay fever, which is an allergic reaction to pollen when it comes into contact with our eyes, nose and throat.

And, with the high temperatures resulting in high pollen counts, even more of us might be set to join the ranks of hay fever sufferers. According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, reported cases of hay fever in England in 2018 have already smashed the five year average, with more than 45,000 people visiting their GP with symptoms between June 4 and 10 alone. So, just what can you do to relieve hay fever? Here are some tips!

  1. After going outside, wash everything

If you’re suffering from hay fever, it might surprise you to know that simply coming indoors is not enough. Pollen is microscopic, persistent and sticky. If you want the best chance of relief, try washing it all off once you come inside - this means your hair, body and clothes! And if you think giving clothes a good airing on the line will do the job, think again when there’s a high pollen count, as drying your clothes outside means you’ll effectively be dousing yourself in a sneeze-inducing layer each time you don a fresh outfit!

  1. Build a barrier for your nose

Unless you don’t mind strange looks everywhere you go, wearing a mask is obviously not ideal! Thankfully, there are other more inconspicuous, yet effective, things you can do. Try putting a thin layer of Vaseline around and inside the lower part of your nostrils, as this can combat hay fever and significantly reduce symptoms. Vaseline traps the pollen and stops it from entering the nose, which stops your hay fever from getting worse.

  1. Be prepared with timely medication

Antihistamine drops, nasal sprays and tablets are widely available from local pharmacies and will all provide some relief. Unfortunately, there is no cure for hay fever, but anticipating the arrival of symptoms by checking the pollen count forecast and then taking treatment in advance will help. Allergy UK says that instead of simply taking medication on the worst days, it’s much more effective to take it two weeks before your hay fever symptoms are predicted to begin.

Some people do experience hay fever more severely and, for those for whom over-the-counter remedies fail to help, there are a few other options, such as immunotherapy and a steroid injection. You can speak to your GP about a referral but, if you want to bypass the waiting lists, several health insurance companies also provide cover for this, so it’s worth speaking to your provider to find out if you can benefit.

  1. Put your shades on, shut the windows and start vacuuming!

Wearing wraparound sunglasses will help to stop the pollen getting into your eyes and if you can bear it in the heat, try to vacuum regularly to suck up any of those allergens that get indoors. Despite the warm temperatures, try keeping windows shut to achieve maximum relief inside. You can also get a pollen filter for your car’s air conditioning; if you don’t have one already it’s a good idea to get one fitted.

  1. Try complementary therapies

The Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture UK highlights research that suggests that complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, provide some relief from hay fever symptoms. The British Homeopathic Association endorses natural hay fever remedies as effective treatments that avoid the side effects of more conventional antihistamines. Alternative medicines such as these do appear to improve the quality of life for many hay fever sufferers, and you might be surprised to know that several health insurers include cover for complementary therapies, so it’s worth exploring and finding out what else is included in your policy too!

To find the right policy to protect you and your family - whatever the weather! - try our online health insurance comparison tool or speak to one of our advisers on 0800 862 0373.