Hayfever symptoms: Not to be sneezed at

Hayfever symptoms: Not to be sneezed at

When her 10-year-old son gets hayfever symptoms for the first time this summer, Esther N McCarthy, leaps into mammy mode to try to cure him. They trial homoeopathic remedies, high-tech household gadgets and good old-fashioned nettles

Apropos of nothing, the ten-year-old gets hay fever this summer for the first time.

Selfish, some might call it. Suddenly, all the warnings and the precautions and the cures become more than background statistics and the difference between a fun summer frolicking through fields and a miserable one where I can’t ban Son Number One (SNO) from the screens because he has to stay inside.

The other two brothers will go ballistic, and screen bans are pretty much the only power play I have, and I don’t want to let it go. In fairness, SNO is a good patient, but dealing with the oozing nose/ blocked nose (how can it be both?!), the shuffling gait, the bleary eyes, the headaches, the listlessness, the moaning ... it’s like living with an extra from the Walking Dead. I go into mammy mode. We’ll sort this! Poxy pollen is no match for me. Hayfever, big deal, it can’t be that hard to conquer, right?

Wrong. Here’s what we tried, what worked, what didn’t. He’s much better now than he was in May, so that’s a positive. But it still flares up. This year caught us off guard, but we’ll Roy Keane it next summer, we won’t fail to prepare, and we won’t prepare to fail. Hear that, pollen?

Au Naturelle

My first stop was the health store. A cousin revealed he’d had some success with a salt inhaler, so that went in the basket. I’d also got advice from a trusted friend and expert in all things health shoppy and she recommended A.Vogel Pollinosan tablets.

They were sold out in the first three shops I went to which totally kicked off my I MUST HAVE IT NOW gene.

I got my hands on a bottle in the chemist and picked up Cetrine antihistamine as well. We did see improvement after a few days of a combo of these two. The A.Vogel is a homoeopathic remedy, but in the interest of full disclosure, it does recommend it only for adults and children over 12 . (He tall for his age, ok? Don’t you judge me.) It works like a sponge of sorts, this supplement is supposed to absorb excess pollen before it gets into the blood-stream.

We started the salt inhaler a couple of weeks before the pollinosan, and honestly, it didn’t seem to have any effect, it distracted him and made him focus on his breathing but that’s about it. We got the Higher Nature Saltpipe Inhaler version, it was around €30. The A. Vogel were €15 for 120 tablets. We also bought him a good pair of sunglasses and got a tub of Vaseline. He smears a blob up his nostrils before he goes outside to hopefully trap some of the pollen before it gets into his system.

Home truths

Dust and pollen in the home are major triggers for hayfever. We tried the new Dyson V11 Absolute vacuum after a friend swore by it. (She’s since been downgraded to an acquaintance since she refused to answer my WhatsApp hints about her sharing it. The V11 is €649, www.dyson.ie.)

This is one serious piece of kit. The advanced filtration spec is what got me to the party but it was the ease of use that made me stay. So the sciencey bit is that it has a fully sealed filtration system, which it says captures 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns4 expelling cleaner air. I’m going to take Mr Dyson’s word for it. There’s 14 cyclones generating forces of more than 79,000g to fling microscopic particles – such as pollen and bacteria – into the bin.

It’s light, really easy to use and it cleans ridiculously well. Here’s come more techy bits - three microprocessors (one in the Dynamic Load Sensor inside the High Torque cleaner head; one inside the digital motor V11; and one inside the battery) work out how much suction you need, depending on whether you’re cleaning the carpet or tiles or wooden floor. It automatically adjusts plus you can see how much runtime is left on the screen at the top. It’s cord-free and bag free and the battery is fab.

With loads of different, click on/click off heads, we used it for the car, sofa, cat box, and all over the house. SNO does his own bed and bedroom twice a week, without complaining... much. If there’s a blockage, you get on-screen instructions on how to fix it and it even tells you when the filter needs washing. The house is definitely less dusty, just because it’s not a chore to vacuum, so win, win.

The Asthma Society teamed up with Dyson Ireland to create a pollen tracker on asthma.ie. You get an update of pollen levels, and a predictor for the following day. We’ve made a habit of checking in each morning to prepare ourselves, and keep windows closed if the count is really high.

Sting in the tale

Internet searches for cures kept bringing up the nettle theory. The idea being getting stung concentrates the immune system on the nettles and forgets about the pollen. Nettles are thought to reduce the amount of histamine caused by allergies in the body. Funnily enough, the kid wasn’t too keen on trying it out. (I’ve reared him soft.) But, as luck would have it, he accidentally got stung one evening and swears he had the best night’s sleep of the summer —something not to be sneezed at.

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