Why hayfever symptoms can get worse at night

Thought you were safe because the sun has gone away?

Louise Baillie
Hayfever Advisor
Ask Louise

21 July 2017

Why do my hayfever symptoms get worse at night?

After struggling through a day of hayfever symptoms, you decide to treat yourself to a night out – after all, it’s night time so your symptoms are likely to calm down, right? Well, you might actually be wrong!

Many people report that their symptoms are actually worse at night, whether they’re out for dinner, on a night out, or just trying to get some sleep. A recent poll we conducted confirmed that the majority of our readers experience their worst symptoms at night or early in the morning – so why is this?

Experiencing hayfever symptoms at night and early morning

What time of day is pollen highest?

What you might not realise is that pollen levels can often peak at night. During the day, pollen rises with the warm air, and as night falls and the air begins to cool, all this pollen sinks back down. Some plants also release their pollen in the evening, adding to this effect.

Charting these changes in pollen levels can be difficult, however, since different types of grass pollinate at different stages of the season, and each pollinates at different times of the day! However, a study conducted by Danish scientists assessed pollen levels throughout the day at early season (a), mid-season (b) and late season (c) and found that, in early and mid-season, pollen is particularly high in the early evening and at night. 

Graph charting the pollen count at different times of day

This is an interesting study, but bear in mind that Denmark may have different combinations of grass species, as well as different daylight hours and weather. However, what the study does confirm is that we are wrong to assume that just because the sun has gone away we are safe from pollen!

Trapped pollen in the home

However, if pollen becomes stuck in your home, you can experience a worsening in symptoms overnight even if the pollen count is not high that night. This in particular explains why some people experience their worst symptoms early in the morning, after a night of sleeping in a pollen-laden bedroom.

Pollen easily gets stuck to our clothes, skin and hair, as well as any pets that have been outside. If you get changed in your bedroom, go to sleep without washing your hair or let pets sleep on your bed, you can easily see how pollen can become concentrated there.

Evening alcohol can affect symptoms too

If you’re out and about at night, it might be because you’re out drinking with friends, and if this is the case you should be wary. Alcohol is a rich source of histamine, which can trigger a more severe hayfever reaction, essentially counteracting the anti-histamine tablets you’re taking!

Checking your diet is a good idea too – what you eat in the evening could be affecting your hayfever symptoms.

How to combat night-time hayfever symptoms

Identifying what’s causing your night-time symptoms can be helpful in figuring out what to do about it, so consider whether your symptoms are caused by pollen in your home, your evening eating and drinking habits, or perhaps just a high pollen count.

One of the most important things you can do is to keep doing whatever you would during the day! Arm yourself with nasal spray and eye drops when you’re out and about, and make sure to use them just before you go to bed. Lining your nostrils with coconut oil or lip balm, whether you’re out and about or in bed, will help to reduce the amount of pollen you’re breathing in.

You can also adjust the time you take your hayfever tablets if you’re taking one-a-day tablets. Try to take your tablet a couple of hours before your symptoms usually peak. Most people take theirs in the morning, but if your symptoms are worst at night you might be better taking them with dinner.

Better still, opt for twice daily tablets that will keep you topped up all day and night. Our own Pollinosan tablets should be taken three times daily, meaning that the levels of these hayfever-fighting herbs stay constant in your body all day and night.

Keep your windows closed at night. We know, it’s hot! Follow our 7 tips to keep cool at night so you don’t need to open a window.

If you have a porch, make sure to take off your outer layers off clothes (such as jackets or jumpers) in here. As soon as you come in, get changed into clean clothes in the bathroom and pop your pollen-laded clothes in the wash or in a plastic bag to wash later. 

Taking a quick shower and washing your hair as early as possible will help to prevent the spread of pollen around your home. If you don’t want to shower as soon as you get in, at least make sure to do so before you go to bed, or you’ll cover your pillow and bedsheets in pollen which you’ll then breathe in all night!

And if you’re out at night drinking alcohol, try to cut back a little!

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