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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 June, 2003, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Your homespun hayfever remedies
Woman sneezing
"Get me some honey, fast!"
As new research shows the health service struggling to treat the sharp rise in allergy sufferers, we offer some homespun remedies for that most common of conditions - hayfever.

A spoonful of sugar, according to that doyenne of homespun philosophy, Mary Poppins, helps the medicine go down. But a spoonful of honey is the medicine, for some hay-fever sufferers at least.

Following our story last week about the inexplicable growth of hayfever in the UK - more than a quarter of the population now suffer from it - users blitzed us with their favourite remedies for the summer sneezing "sickness".

In addition to the shop-sold treatments - which shall remain nameless in the interests of BBC impartiality - was a rich array of kitchen cupboard-style antidotes. We cannot vouch for them, but they might offer some relief to sufferers.

The honey solution already mentioned was among the most popular, although many users, such as Vipul Vij from Solihull, insisted it had to be a local honey.

Bee and flower

"The honey should be locally produced and should be consumed in small quantities (say one and half teaspoons) every morning. You should ideally do this all year round, or at least a month before the hay fever season starts," says Vipul.

Claire suggests mixing three spoons of honey with nettle tea. The "rather nasty concoction... does wonders for excess mucus in the respiratory system," she says.

The more adventurous might want to try Ugandan-based Jayne Mugenyi's cocktail of fresh lemon juice, the yolk of an egg and honey, which makes a "gravy-tasting substance that clears the throat".

Nettle tea is "a natural anti-histamine" and that makes it a "godsend", says Sonia. Another user recommends vitamin C, niacin, garlic and nettle leaves.

For Megan, from Belgium, three or four cups a day of strong lemon balm tea do the trick. MJ believes camomile tea bags "work wonders" while two users swear by cranberry juice, either hot or cold.

Prince Charles
Nettle tea could stop those sniffles
Sufferer Stewart Smith fuses his hayfever treatment with a spot of beauty treatment by using cucumber slices on the eyes. The vegetable neutralises the pollen and acts as tears, "washing your eyes clean".

Water, it seems, holds many benefits for those snivelling as they swelter, although opinions vary on how best to use it. Frozen, says Paul Austin, who recommends sucking an ice cube at "the back/top of the mouth/throat... it cools and relieves irritation, and brings the sneezing under control."

Gordon Hindle, of Canada, prefers to lodge the cube under the tongue for "instant relief", while another user says ice-cream is just as good.

Drinking water does wonders for US hayfever sufferer Qais, who also finds running and swimming help, while John Clark is one of a handful who finds dousing the face with water clears away the pollen grains that have stuck.

Shedding a tear
More than a quarter of people suffer from hay-fever
Kate Alley's approach is, by her own admission, gross but effective - a nasal douche. "Snort water up your nostrils (one at a time), then blow it back out, washing away the pollen as you do so. Obviously not a cure which can be used in public but the relief you get is instantaneous!" Many others vouch for this temporary solution.

Mere proximity to water is good enough for Shelley, in Mexico, who recommends a trip to the seaside to stop hayfever symptoms in their tracks.

A more radical remedy proposed by many is simply quit this pollen-infested island. Suggested "hayfever free zones" include Finland, Thailand, Trinidad, the Seychelles, Stockholm and anywhere in the French Alps. Failing that, says Sharron, go on holiday.

Keeping cool does it for Geoff, who suggests retreating to the "coldest, darkest room in the house", while Jon Hudson prefers an air-conditioned car.

Either alone, or with a G&T
A different sort of cool involves donning a pair of sunglasses, which has proved fruitful for John Phoenix, although he cautions: "The current fashion for small lenses is no good... the best sort are the wrap-around visor type used by cyclists."

But another school of thought is to do the complete opposite. Jon Doody is one of those to suggest spicy foods. "The runny nose that ensues cleans out all the pollen. Sorted!!" says Euan Fullerton, in Scotland.

Smearing petroleum jelly on your face will leave you looking distinctly uncool, but it works for some. Liz James says a dab on the inside of the nostrils helps trap the pollen while Cassandra suggests putting it on your eyelashes for the same effect.

It sounds weird, but if it's bizarre you want, there's more in that category. Lindsay Parker from Belgium sings the praises of smoking as a remedy; Edward Wickham of the US suggests sucking on a wedge of lemon or lime; and Claire Lee discovered her hayfever magically cleared up when she broke her nose last year.

Finally, if none of these cure your sniffles, the advice of Geraldine Charles is to wait. "I've had hayfever ever since I can remember. When I was a child in the 50s and 60s I seemed to be the only sufferer around - now I'm often not suffering when others are. Cures? There are none but time."

09 Jul 99  |  Medical notes
Just for the record
02 Apr 03  |  UK


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