Tag Archives: Hayfever

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

This post is one of a series about the ongoing health issues I have had recently beginning in February 2011.

Once the GP and Ear Nose and Throat specialist had established that there wasn’t really anything significant wrong, the general advice was that I needed to ride out the infections, but would benefit from some lifestyle changes.

Of course this is the same sort of general healthy living advice that I suspect most people get when they visit their GP – certainly a colleague at work said he gets much the same every visit to his GP, however like most people I wasn’t eating as healthily as I could, and certainly wasn’t getting enough exercise.

I’d already changed some things as a result of the effects of the post nasal drip. For two or three months I’d been getting morning nausea, which really wasn’t helped by having milk on cereal in the morning. For part of the time I’d just cut out the cereal, but that left me feeling decidedly hungry by lunchtime. Since the previous belief that too many eggs were bad for you had been changed recently I decided to try poached eggs for breakfast – Sam had already developed a bit of a liking for eggs for breakfast too, so it wasn’t too much of a problem to change. The change was also beneficial in cutting my sugar intake, as the muesli I was having had rather a lot of sugar I discovered when I was advised to cut down.

So why cut down on sugar? If you take a look at this WebMD list of immune system busters and boosters third on the list is sugar intake – apparently it can have a dramatic effect on the immune system and it’s ability to fight infection, indeed Sinus Survival, one of a number of deal with your sinus problem guides that are available recommends cutting refined sugar and dairy products totally when you are suffering from a sinus infection.

I’ve had not too much problem cutting out sugar as I’ve never been a great one for snacks, however when the birthday cakes come out at work I have to keep temptation under control. Having said that wanting to end months of being ill is a good way to keep it at bay!

Dairy wise again I’ve pretty well cut it out, but then I never had much dairy anyway, aside from milk on breakfast cereal I’ve just had to stop having cheese. Beth has also cut down on sugar and dairy, although going dairy free was something she was thinking about anyway having had a friend who had children who were lactose intolerant, and had gone dairy free as a family for convenience, and then ended up feeling better for it. In the case of sinus problems the reason for doing so is that dairy products are believed to cause an increase in mucus production, so by cutting it out it reduces the mucus.

The other recommendation from the GP was to start taking some multivitamins, so I’ve joined Beth and the children in taking my vitamins every morning – initially an immune building mix but subsequently myself and Beth are both having the same standard multivitamin.

Alongside this we’ve increased our fruit intake – so we’re certainly eating more than our five a day I’m sure. But the big change on my part is that I’m making time for a walk, often at lunchtime, but with a longer walk at weekends.

Although I work in a town centre, I’m lucky that five minutes drive up the road are the RMA Sandhurst training grounds. Although I have tried walking up there, in the limited time available in a lunchtime it means you end up spending 20-30 minutes walking alongside traffic choked roads, and only get a limited time out in the public parts of the training grounds. Driving up gives time for a 2-3km walk in the hour for lunch. There are plenty of paths to explore, and even a couple of geocaches that I’ve picked up. If I want a shorter walk, heading from the office up to the Camberley Obelisk is about 1km there and back, even if the Obelisk itself is in a bit of a sorry state nowadays and the view is mostly obscured by trees. (Saddleback Hill in the RMA Sandhurst training grounds gives a much better view.)

I’ve also done longer walks in and around Arborfield and Finchampstead. There is a nice circuit from St James’ down through the village and across to Fleet Hill and back, and there would be an equally nice circuit from home around to Arborfield village if it wasn’t for the fact that one key path from Langley Common Road to the village appears to end at a dead end at somebodies back fence! I’ve also picked up quite a few of the local geocaches over towards Farley Hill.

Certainly the diet changes and exercise are making me feel better, but until the hayfever season is over, it remains to be seen whether I’ll finally beat the sinus problems!

Red Light Therapy for Allergies – Does it Work?

This post is one of a series about the ongoing health issues I have had recently beginning in February 2011.

Having blogged about something that I’ve found useful, now something that is very much in the not-so-much category.

I’ve had hayfever for many years, like many people it first surfaced in childhood, and I can well remember being sent out onto the field at primary school at break time after they had mown the grass either on the main field or the paddock behind and my eyes an nose absolutely streaming. Over the years I’ve started with the usual anti-histamines, and then more recently moved onto nasal steroid sprays, usually Beconase Nasal Spray which was generally fairly successful at keeping the symptoms down. Over recent years my symptoms have become less and less until they’ve not really been too much of a bother except when the pollen count was extremely high. This year though, after antibiotics didn’t seem to get rid of my post nasal drip, my GP decided that it was now an allergy problem, and put me onto Zirtek and Flixonase. Given that I’d had years of similar medicines I wasn’t expecting too much of a problem, however I was wrong.

Within a few days I was really starting to feel run down and fatigued, and sleeping much more than I usually would, and I was increasingly starting to get feelings of dry mouth and dry throat. Looking down the side effect lists for both drugs, fatigue and dry mouth were listed as side effects of the Zirtek, so I came off that, but although it improved, I was still feeling pretty lousy taking the Flixonase. At this point, and having had no real problems with Beconase over the years I asked to switch back to that. Although I still got the dry throat and dry mouth to an extent, it was better than on the newer drugs.

At this point it’s worth taking a little diversion into looking at hayfever. Basically what happens is that in certain people the immune system overreacts to inhaling certain pollens. For many people it’s grass pollen, but with others it’s different sorts of trees, or nettles for example. Ultimately the best solution to hayfever is not to expose yourself to the pollens, however if you take a look at a pollen map of the UK that is pretty difficult – the high pollen areas correspond with the most populous parts of the country. You don’t get any escape being in a city either as although pollen levels themselves are lower, pollution in the cities, particularly from vehicle exhausts exacerbates the symptoms. This can be seen most clearly on the map by looking at generally low pollen areas such as the Welsh Coast, and the area around Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, both of which are marked in red whilst most of the rest of the country is in green. Generally good places to be are on the coast, and due to the prevailing winds across the UK, a west facing coast, in an area with low pollution. It’s also advisable to avoid areas of intensive farming. Given this NASA produced map of worldwide pollution it looks like the best place for hayfever sufferers to head in the UK is the west coast of Scotland. Although of course out that way you do get more of a problem from the dreaded Highland Midge.

Anyway, given that like most people in the country my home and work is in one of the many red areas on the map, and that even the Beconase was giving me problems, I started to look around for any alternatives.

There are a couple of easy to try things to start with. One that comes up a lot is to eat local honey, although that does appear to be a bit of a myth, so although I’ve started eating local honey from a nearby farm shop, that’s as much to do with supporting local business as anything else.

One thing that came up quite a lot in the annual “how to beat Hayfever” articles was trying red light therapy. At first thought it sounds absolutely nuts, shining two red lights of a fixed frequency up your nose for a few minutes a couple of times a day, but there are a number of competing products and if you take a look at the reviews for the original device the Medinose, loads of people who say how amazing it is. There is also a sometimes bargain priced version sold by branches of Lloyds Pharmacy.

Not having a Lloyds Pharmacy close by I picked up a Bionase which is the newly rebranded version of the original product – you can read their medical evidence on their main website.

So the question is, does doing an impression of Rudolph several times a day do any good?

I have to say that I started the red light therapy before I stopped on the Beconase, and I have started sneezing more since then, however not as much as I would usually expect given the pollen levels – just occasionally when I’m exposed to high levels of pollen. For example coming back from a walk I’d be fine for the whole walk up to the point when I walk past a neighbour who is mowing his lawn and I’ll get a big reaction. It is also worth saying that the manufacturers advice is that you should start therapy in advance of your hayfever season rather than try and suppress the symptoms after they start. However it doesn’t seem to be doing any harm, and I have got generally reduced symptoms. In fact the only real problem seems to be that it eats through 9V batteries significantly faster than the 100 treatments the manual suggests.

So in conclusion it’s certainly not a miracle cure from my hayfever, but plenty of people seem to think it is. If you don’t have a Lloyds Pharmacy close by you can pick up a Bionase or one of the numerous competing products for about £30-£40, and all you have to contend with then is your family, and especially your kids staring at you as your nose glows red twice a day!

Having Children Makes You Ill

I’ve got a growing list of things they should tell you before having children, but don’t. One of my first was that babies can’t blow their nose, so you need to use one of these to clear it. However this past six months I’ve got a new one, having children makes you ill.

It’s not literally that they directly make you ill, it’s just that especially once they start mixing with other children at daycare or toddler groups they start picking up all sorts of germs and nasties, and unlike adults who know to turn away when they cough, or to wash their hands, your children don’t, so they’ll happily cough in your face, sneeze all over you all sorts.

I’ve basically been ill with one thing or another since the beginning of February this year. It started with a bout of norovirus, not a surprise as one of the winter vomiting bugs had been circulating around the local community in the weeks before. I was fairly lucky in that I only got the explosive diarrhoea. As anyone who has had it will tell you although it only lasts a few days it does leave you feeling a bit run down, so it was not a massive surprise when a few days later I went down with a cold. However that rapidly transformed into one of the worst bouts of tonsillitis I’ve had, complete with barely being able to swallow and massively swollen tonsils turning almost totally white at one point. This was also accompanied by the start of a post-nasal drip that has been my constant companion ever since.

On the second visit to the GP I was put on some basic antibiotics which seemed to kick the symptoms whilst I was taking them, but they came back once the antibiotics were done. I also started getting morning nausea at this point, probably due to the post-nasal drip. Over a number of following weeks the GP decided I had a sinus infection and prescribed stronger antibiotics, again these seemed to work fine when I was taking them, but once I was off them again the symptoms returned, however the repeated antibiotics produced another delightful side effect in that they further weakened my immune system so I ended up going down with another bout of norovirus, but a lot worse. When it hit I had the full blown simultaneous projectile vomiting with explosive diarrhoea – not that I remember it as I actually passed out in the bathroom, and ended up pretty well totally wiped out for two days, that led to some symptoms that started to look like some sort of post viral fatigue syndrome, along with the ever present post-nasal drip. However from there we also had the beginnings of what has been one of the worst hay fever seasons for many years so my cold symptoms just metamorphosed into hay fever.

By this point the GP was concerned enough to take blood tests and refer me to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist for an endoscopy, just to make sure nothing was amiss. The consultant commented that although my tonsils and nasal tubes appeared swollen, there was nothing significant actually wrong, similarly the blood tests came back normal. The advice then from the GP was just to try and keep healthy, so ensure I was eating properly, taking regular exercise and so on, which is largely what I’ve been doing, alongside following various bits of advice for dealing with recurrent sinus infections, allergies and generally living healthily.

I’ll talk about my experiences with those, and in particular what I’ve found that works and what doesn’t in subsequent posts.

Having said all of that, what I have discovered is that whilst I may have been hit hard with the particular combination of illnesses I’ve had, I’m not alone. One friend said that her husband, who at the time their second child was born was travelling a lot on business had tonsillitis pretty well for two years after their second child was born – the combination of the hammering your immune system takes on repeated long haul plane journeys combined with the children, but the vast majority of them have to a greater or lesser effect experienced periods where they appear to be continually getting ill.