Eating woodlouse against hay fever? These are the tips that work

Eating woodlouse against hay fever? These are the tips that work
Eating woodlouse against hay fever? These are the tips that work

All around you you hear sniffles due to hay fever and that means that we are also getting grandma’s tips from the stable. Kissing against hay fever, eating woodlice, drinking spring rainwater… There is no real research into the effectiveness of all these home, garden and kitchen remedies.

What exactly is hay fever?

Biologist and hay fever authority Maurice Martens: “Hay fever is a pollen allergy. Pollen is pollen. Hay fever is therefore a pollen allergy. There are allergens on the outside of the pollen grains and if they come into contact with your mucous membranes, they can cause a reaction from your immune system. The symptoms are sneezing, pain in the eyes, watery eyes, fatigue or loss of concentration. Some people react more intensely than others. It is very striking that people who have hay fever often experience a burst of sneezing in a short time.”

Is someone with hay fever allergic to all pollen?

“The allergy applies to plants that are pollinated by the wind, which releases their pollen into the air. Pollen are balls that contain the male sex cell of the plant. The male sex cells must join the female ones. If pollen floats in the air, you can also say: ‘love is in the air‘. Those plants that are pollinated by the wind can be divided into three groups: trees and shrubs, grasses – which also includes grains – and herbs. The plants that bear beautiful flowers also have pollen, but this is carried by insects, butterflies and birds. Those pollen do not get into the air and therefore do not bother you.”

Which group of plants causes the most problems for people?

“Half responds to the grasses. They bloom from mid-May to early July.”

The tree that causes the most trouble is the birch. “It will bloom a little later, from the end of March. Due to global warming, everything will bloom earlier and so the hay fever season will also start earlier, somewhere in December. The herbs will be the last to bloom, at the end of August or September.”

Can you find out exactly which pollen you are allergic to?

“You can ask your doctor for an allergy test. The GP, allergist or ENT specialist will also check whether you are allergic to something else, such as house dust mites or dog or cat hair. Those allergies have similar symptoms. They can do experiments with different mixtures of pollen. You can also figure it out yourself. You can check the pollen calendar to see which plants and trees are in bloom and when. If you click on the photo in the calendar, you will see a video of that plant. If you suffer from hay fever in March, you know that it is not caused by grasses or herbs, but by the trees that bloom during that period. If you had problems in December, close to Christmas, then you should be among the earliest bloomers. On the websites you will get to know the plants that bother you personally. When you see them in bloom, you can do a lot yourself to reduce nuisance.”

The Sciensano pollen calendar.

It seems like more and more people are suffering from hay fever, is that right?

“Yes, but there are two factors at play. In the past, it was assumed that you could only get hay fever from grasses. We now know that you can also get that from trees and herbs. For example, some diseases that used to be called summer flu turn out to be hay fever. It is not that many more patients have been added, we now just know that it is hay fever. In addition, allergies are becoming increasingly common in our Western, hygienic world. Hay fever, allergies to dog and cat hair, dust mites or certain foods. Just look around: many parents are very careful with children, washing their hands immediately upon arrival. When children dig around in the ground and put their dirty hands in their mouths, the immune system becomes used to certain substances. If you only come into contact with this at an older age, the immune system will be shocked. It is not a general rule, but our somewhat exaggerated way of hygienic living does play a role.”

Is hay fever hereditary?

“It is partly hereditary. If you have two parents who both have hay fever, there is a good chance that you have it too, about a 60 to 70 percent chance.”

Can you get rid of it?

“There are therapies that are being used. One of them is immunotherapy: you can undergo it if you have very severe hay fever. I know from an allergist that he does not really like to use that. According to him, it has results in half of the patients. Immunotherapy is a strong therapy. You are exposed to the allergens for a number of years in a row and that is not always pleasant.”

What can you do now to minimize the impact of your allergy?

“Avoiding pollen is the very best thing you can do. Make sure pollen cannot enter the house and keep windows and doors closed. If you want to air out your house during the period when you are having problems, do so early in the morning and do not open everything up against each other. Then there will be drafts and the pollen will come in. The least pollen is in the air from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.; then it is also best to go jogging. In the afternoon the air is most full of pollen. Also wash your hair before going to bed. When you walk around outside, pollen gets in your hair and on your clothes. Also undress in a room other than the bedroom. Learn to recognize the plants that are bothering you using the pollen calendar. You can do some self-study, so that you know which plants you are sensitive to.”

What about those home, garden and kitchen remedies?

The Internet is teeming with advice, such as eating woodlice, citrus fruits, local honey, garlic and onions, or drinking spring rainwater. The idea behind it is that it contains substances that are similar to pollen, which would make you resistant, or which reduce the production of histamine – the substance that causes allergic reactions. Medical taping, where a therapist applies tape to the body, has also been frequently mentioned as something that could help. Martens: “With these types of remedies, there are always people who think they benefit from them, but there are also people who don’t notice anything. It has not been scientifically proven and you can question it. You should do thorough research on it first. That advice comes back every year: kissing against hay fever, drinking alcohol. If you believe in it, it helps. I feel like people should experience this for themselves, but to my knowledge it has not been scientifically proven that it really works. But as far as rainwater is concerned: I wouldn’t drink the first rainwater. It also contains other substances, such as gases from traffic and industry.”

Tips to reduce allergic reactions

– Use a pollen calendar to find out which plant you are allergic to, so that you can avoid it

– Ensure that pollen does not enter the house by keeping doors and windows closed. Vacuum regularly with a vacuum cleaner with good filters and don’t forget to keep the pets that come outside clean.

– Shower before going to bed and take off your clothes in a room other than your bedroom.

– Between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. there are the fewest pollens in the air. Then do your outdoor activities. Even after a rain shower there is much less pollen.

– Do not hang laundry outside during the period when you are experiencing discomfort.

– Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from pollen.

– Book holidays or trips to the sea; there are the least pollen in the air.

– Keep track of your allergy in a diary, so you know when it bothers you most and you can avoid certain places or actions as much as possible during that period.

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