Hayfever and the home: How to handle your allergies
PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 July 2016
The recent balmy weather, combined with one of the wettest winters for years, has created the perfect conditions for a pollen explosion, bringing months of misery for hay fever sufferers.
The Met Office issued a pollen warning back in April and one study has claimed that this year will be the year of the super-allergies.
But there is a growing industry out there dedicated to keeping it out of the house – literally.
The condition affects one in five people nationally and, according to Allergy UK, that is three times the number of 20 years ago.
Another rising trend is the sales of the many devices aimed at doing everything to either purify the home or keep pollutants out altogether.
Scientists estimate that air quality can be five times worse indoors than it is outside. Homes are designed to keep heat in and noise out, creating an ideal closed environment for allergens and pollutants to thrive.
And, given that we spend around 90 per cent of our time indoors, there is a lot of potential to be exposed.
Pollen screens, air filters - and houseplants that actually reduce pollutants - are becoming increasingly popular. But, before you embark on a spending spree, it’s worth remembering that prevention starts with common sense.
Dr Anna Benson, a GP at Davenport House, Harpenden, says: “There are ways of avoiding the symptoms altogether, obvious things such as keeping your doors and windows closed during the day, especially if you know your neighbours are cutting their lawn, and showering before you go to bed to get the pollen out of your hair.
“Don’t forget, flowers and house plants can cause hayfever. Individuals vary on specific plant pollen allergy, but ones to generally avoid include hyacinths and lilies.”
Some garden centres are advertising houseplants as effective barriers to pollen. They generally have larger leaves which collect pollutants and help clean the air. Some are said to even remove dangerous chemicals, such as formaldehyde, from the air.
Dr Benson, herself a sufferer, added: “The dracaena houseplant catches allergens in its leaves and acts as a natural pollen filter for the home. I suspect one would need a fair few plants to be effective. A more robust method of irradiating pollen from the house would be to buy an air purifier.”
One of the best-marketed at the moment is the Dyson Pure Cool Link which works by trapping allergens odours and pollutants in its filter and is said to be 99.95 per cent effective.
Pollutants, generally, can be anything from mould and bacteria, textile fibres, chemical fumes, pet hair, and gas from cooking. But it’s chemicals from deodorants and cleaning solvents that are the most common indoor pollutants.
Another, which has the backing of the British Allergy Foundation, is the Vax AP06 Air Purifier, which comes with a range of speed and timer settings and is effective on decent-sized family rooms. (vax.co.uk; £149.99).
The Bionaire BAP 9240 comes with a lifetime Hepa Filter so you won’t have to worry about changing it every few months. (£79.99, breathingspace.co.uk).
If you can afford them, there are now allergy vacuum cleaners on the market which have extra powerful suction needed to capture minute particles such as pollen. One of the most well-known is the Dyson DC41 Animal (dyson.co.uk; £398.99). The Samsung VGJC does a similar job, although manufacturers recommend you wear protective clothing when emptying the bag (Samsung.com/uk; from £108).
Certain washing machines, such as the Panasonic Steam washing machine, include high-temperature allergy programmes which includes intensive steam sprays are said to remove 99 per cent of allergens (£599).
Allergy UK urges sufferers to avoid mowing lawns or raking leaves themselves or otherwise wearing a filtration face mask.
Wraparound sunglasses can help keep pollen allergens out of your eyes and a hat with a peak or large brim can help keep them from your eyes and face.
Leave that outside, along with your gardening clothes, and brush your hair before you come in.
And don’t let plants climb too close to your windows, because pollen may blow inside.
If you need to have your window open at night, place your air purifier between the window and where you are to minimise your exposure to the pollen spores.
Or add a pollen screen which can be made to fit your window or door frame, allowing the air in while filtering irritants such as birch, grass, stinging nettle and ambrosia pollen as well as insects. An affordable first step if you want to test the concept may be the Pollenstop Mesh Pollen Screen which comes with adhesive fixing strips (newblinds.co.uk; £14.84).
And if all else fails, don’t be tempted to turn to drink – alcohol contains histamine, one of the root causes of hayfever.