What is hayfever?
Hayfever occurs when your immune system starts to perceive pollen, a harmless substance, as a threat and initiates an inflammatory immune response. As a result of this immune response you’re likely to experience a barrage of unpleasant symptoms – sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, headaches and even skin irritation.
Hayfever is extremely common in the UK and it’s estimated that as many as 1 in 4 will summer from the allergy at some point in their lives.1 However, while the usual symptoms can be difficult to manage on their own, if you also suffer from sensitive skin in addition to hayfever, it can be especially difficult to cope with.
How does hayfever affect your skin?
In some instances pollen particles can stimulate an inflammatory reaction when they make contact with your skin. Normally a rash will develop, sometimes accompanied by hives, which is bad enough on its own but what if you already suffer from a condition such as eczema, psoriasis or rosacea?
Well, the bad news is that if you suffer from eczema, you’re already going to be more susceptible to hayfever. This is because eczema is part of what is known as the ‘atopic triangle’ alongside hayfever and asthma.2 Unfortunately, if you already suffer from one condition of the atopic triangle, you’re 70% more likely to suffer from another.
It also doesn’t help that eczema sufferers are more likely to have higher levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies which play a role in moderating the body’s immune response by supporting the release of histamine, an inflammatory substance. Combine this with a weakened epidermis and you have the perfect recipe for a flare up.
Psoriasis and rosacea aren’t immune to the effects of hayfever either and again, it’s the inflammatory immune response that has to take most of the blame. In rosacea, inflammation places more pressure on the delicate blood vessels causing the tell-tale redness that accompanies the condition while in psoriasis, the stress of experiencing hayfever symptoms, combined with poor skin barrier function, can cause a flare-up.
What should you be doing to protect your skin?
You can’t control the seasons or the weather so sometimes hayfever and its associated effect on your skin can seem unavoidable. However, there are still steps you can take to protect your skin and reduce your exposure to the allergen, as I explore below!
1 – Know your pollen count
Knowledge is power and this is certainly true when it comes to combatting hayfever. Depending on where you live, it’s likely that the pollen count will fluctuate from low to moderate to high and if you know what to anticipate, you’ll have time to prepare yourself. That’s why I’d advise keeping up to date with the pollen forecast in your area using our handy Pollen Forecast. We now have over 30,000 towns and cities across the UK so you’re guaranteed to find a forecast that’s accurate for your area, giving you the chance to get ahead of your symptoms!
2 – Wash your clothes and bedding regularly
Pollen can stick to your clothes and be transferred to your skin and bedding easily so I would recommend washing them regularly. Make sure that you are wearing non-abrasive fabrics that are gentle on your sensitive skin – I would generally say try to avoid synthetics! It also helps if you dry your clothes and bedding indoors rather than outdoors where pollen particles are more likely to make a home in your laundry.
3 – Feed your skin (not your allergies)!
Your skin relies on a balance of proper nutrients to function optimally, especially if you have dry, sensitive skin that’s prone to flare-ups. Did you also know that your diet can help to support your hayfever symptoms too, with certain foods having anti-histamine properties? Our hayfever advisor Rachel Berlandi explores these foods more extensively in her Hayfever and Diet page. It’s also worth noting that other foods can have an inflammatory reaction which is bad news not only for your skin, but also for your hayfever symptoms too! That’s why I’d look at reducing your intake of dairy, alcohol and refined sugars and focus on getting plenty of fresh fruit and veg instead!
4- Cool the irritation
It can feel maddening when your skin is inflamed and itchy and resisting the temptation to scratch and scratch can be difficult. That’s why I’d look at skin products that can help to soothe this irritation without containing any nasty ingredients that may potentially make things worse. Look for natural moisturisers with ingredients that can help to nourish your skin. Our Neem Cream may be worth considering here as it’s specifically formulated for very dry, irritated skin that’s prone to flare-ups. Why not keep some in your fridge so the cream can help to cool your skin whilst providing essential nourishment?
5 – Keep calm and grab your hayfever remedies!
Whether it’s a runny nose, watery eyes or congestion, hayfever can be a stressful experience that may put a dampener on your summer vacation or holiday activities. However, stress is definitely the enemy of sensitive skin as, when your body experiences stress, it has a tendency to over-react, presuming that you are in a life or death survival situation. Your digestion can slow down, your blood vessels will dilate and your body will be swamped with inflammatory chemicals, all of which can be disastrous for your skin.
So why not take some of the stress out of hayfever by keeping your hayfever remedies handy? If you know watery, irritated eyes are one of your main symptoms, keep some of our Eye Drops on standby in your handbag so you have them when you need them.
You could also try our Pollinosan Hayfever Tabletswhich can help to treat the overall symptoms of hayfever and allergic rhinitis without causing any of the drowsy side-effects normally associated with conventional anti-histamines. Pollinosan even offer a Luffa Nasal Spray that can be used to cleanse your nasal passages, preventing congestion and a runny nose!