What is hay fever? Its symptoms Each spring, summer, and fall, trees, weeds and grasses release tiny pollen grains into the air. Some of the pollen ends up in your nose and throat. This can trigger a type of allergy called hay fever. Symptoms can include
HAY fever sufferers are being offered an alternative way to ease their symptoms and gradually reduce their sensitivity to pollens.
Every spring and summer, an estimated two in 10 people in the UK suffer from hay fever.
Also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, it is caused by an allergy to airborne substances such as tree, flower or grass pollen, which affects the nose, sinuses, throat and eyes.
Symptoms can be similar to a cold, and include a runny nose, watery eyes and
repeated sneezing attacks.
As with all allergies, the symptoms happen as a result of the body's immune system overreacting to a normally harmless substance.
The most common form of treatment is anti-histamines, but natural alternatives are becoming increasingly popular.
Local homeopath Karen Hampton, from Broadclyst, has recently been telling Exeter shoppers during Homeopathy Awareness Week how homeopathic remedies can not only tackle the symptoms, but reduce their severity over time.
Karen explained: "Homeopathic remedies stimulate your own healing process by boosting the immune system, unlike mainstream drugs which fight it.
"For example, if you have an allergic reaction you are prescribed anti-histamines and if you have inflammation you are given anti-inflammatory medication. These drugs work against your body's reactions, whereas homeopathic medicines work with it.
"Conventional hay fever medicine only works while you are taking it. In many cases, a course of professional homeopathic treatment will reduce the inherited tendency to have allergic reactions, then yearly top-up prescriptions taken over one or two days can ease people through spring and summer.
"Homeopathy is a safe and gentle form of treatment which can be used effectively alongside conventional medication."
Homeopathy has been used successfully for more than 200 years and has been available on the National Health Service since its inception in 1948. There are now five NHS homeopathic hospitals, the nearest in Bristol.
Homeopathy is described as a system of medicine which is based on treating the individual with highly diluted substances given in mainly tablet form. These are called remedies.
It is a concept Karen, who holds clinics at her home in Broadclyst as well as in Sidmouth, often finds herself explaining to people.
She said: "Most people don't know what homeopathy is. A lot of people confuse it with aromatherapy. The two are totally different.
"Homeopathy is a complete system of medicine based on long-established principles, one of which is that like cures like.
"These principles differ greatly from our mainstream medicine, so initially it's a huge leap for people to take. The in-depth questions we ask are very different from the five or six minutes people get with their doctor.
"We are interested in things such as what types of food people like and when their symptoms are best and worst.
"Some critics are very scathing about homeopathy, often knowing little about it, and say it's all in the mind. When people say that I point out that it is used with great results on small babies and animals who have no idea what the placebo effect means."
Common concerns Karen is used to hearing among hay fever sufferers is they struggle with side-effects of over-the-counter medicines, they don't want to take anti-histamines over such a long period and treatments stop working after a few years.
Karen said: "A number of research trials into the use of homeopathic remedies in the treatment of patients with hay fever have shown significant improvement in symptoms."
Each spring, summer, and fall, trees, weeds and grasses release tiny pollen grains into the air. Some of the pollen ends up in your nose and throat. This can trigger a type of allergy called hay fever.
Symptoms can include