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.
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!