hay fever
Health and safety

12 ways to reduce the symptoms of hay fever

Arlene Harris talks to celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin about enjoying the great outdoors hay fever free and how we can reduce the symptoms of hay fever.

He’s best known for transforming tired gardens into magical spaces filled with colour, vibrancy and fragrance. But Diarmuid Gavin is also a fountain of knowledge when it comes to helping hay-fever sufferers to get through the summer season while still enjoying the great outdoors. Here he gives us some tips on how to reduce the symptoms of hay fever.

Ornamental grass

“We live in a temperate climate so have an abundance of plants from all around the world,” he says. “And while the damp climate is great for growth, one of the biggest issues for people suffering from allergies is grass and we really have a lot of that in Ireland.

“Also there has been a bit of a penchant recently for ornamental grasses and these are very problematic for hay-fever sufferers, as they give off a huge amount of pollen so I would encourage people to stay away from these types of grasses if at all possible during the summer months.”

Histamine

The immune systems of people who are allergic to mould spores or pollen treat these particles (called allergens) as invaders and release chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream to defend against them. It’s the release of these chemicals, which cause the allergy symptoms that affect the 20% of Irish people who suffer from hay-fever at this time of year. So while we all welcome brighter evenings and warmer days, this is when tree pollens are at their most prevalent.

Somewhat surprisingly, it is the trees with the most colour which are kinder to those with allergies and Ireland’s most well-known gardener says we should aim to plant female trees in our gardens.

reduce the symptoms of hay fever

“Male trees cause the most problems for people with hay-fever as their pollen spreads on the wind and will aggravate symptoms,” says Diarmuid. “The same goes for anything which is heavily scented such as daisies and old roses – so it is important to be careful around these plants.

“On the other hand, flowering trees such as apple or cherry blossom and plants like hydrangeas, clematis, narcissi and rock rose are great because their pollen is spread by birds, bees and butterflies so is not floating about on the air and causing irritation.”

Pollen

Pollen is released in the early morning and as the air warms up, it’s carried up above our heads. But as evening comes and the air cools, pollen comes back down. This means that symptoms are usually worse first thing in the morning and early evening, particularly on days that have been warm and sunny.

Many hay-fever sufferers tend to avoid outdoor activities at this time of year to escape the associated symptoms of their condition. But regardless of the threat of stuffy runny noses and red, itchy eyes, children will always yearn to be outside and Gavin says there are a number of ways in which we can help reduce their symptoms and those of the adults keeping an eye on them.

12 more ways to reduce the symptoms of hay fever

“Children love being in the garden and in the hay-fever season there are a number of ways to reduce potential symptoms,” he says. “These include the following:

1. Spread a layer of Vaseline or another pollen blocker under the nostrils and around the inside of your child’s nose which will reduce the risk of breathing in pollen and causing irritating symptoms.

2. Wash your child’s hair, face and hands when they come back indoors.

3. Shower and change clothes regularly throughout the day if spending a lot of time outdoors as this will also reduce the spread of pollen.

4. Buy your child a pair of wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen entering their eyes.

5. Keep windows closed at night so pollen doesn’t enter the house.

6. Don’t let them play in fields or large areas of grassland.

7. Use air filters to try to reduce pollen that’s floating around the house.

8. Keep the car windows shut when driving.

9. Check the pollen count before planning outdoor excursions and if very high, wait until the reading is lower.

10. Avoid heavily scented plants and flowers and if work needs to be done on these, make sure to delegate to someone who doesn’t suffer from hay-fever.

11. Prepare an area for growing vegetables and get children to create their own kitchen garden plot.

The joy of gardening

Despite the irritating symptoms of hay-fever which are so prevalent at this time of year, the enthusiastic gardener says if precautions are taken to reduce allergies, there is nothing better for children than a few hours outdoors, getting in touch with nature, learning a new skill and discovering the joy of gardening.

reduce the symptoms of hay fever

“Most children love being outside and as long as they are not suffering too much from hay-fever, I would encourage parents to give them their own little spot in the garden,” he says. “Most youngsters will get great mileage out of growing something and they are never too young to begin learning. I would encourage their interest by firstly growing something instant like mustard or cress – this can be done overnight on a wet piece of kitchen paper or a tea towel.

“They can then progress to other things like beans, peas, tomatoes, berries and potatoes – I find that they are always amazed at how one little potato can multiply.

“Aside from the pleasure of growing something themselves, children will also love the opportunity to get dirty so I would advise parents to start their little ones early in the garden and they will be absolutely captivated for life.”

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.