As a fellow sufferer of over half a century (it is true, really!) it occurred to me as I woke this morning that now might be a great time to remind people of some of the things that could seriously help improve their quality of life during this season of BBQs, summer fairs and other outdoor events. I know it has been worse for many this year in the UK, perhaps because plants have had to work around the excessive rainy periods we are still experiencing?

Apart from the BIG sunglasses that I discovered really helped by accident, no doubt by preventing pollen reaching my eyes… We were all wearing them in the 70s. Mine were ginormous white plastic ones which I would not be seen dead in these days it has to be said! – my options were entirely drug-based, and some of those killed people such as one that I found really worked ‘Triludan’ which apparently was only dangerous if you were swigging it back with grapefruit juice (hence the image!) and I was, so I guess that is one of my nine lives gone?

Triludan was not the only medication which interacts very badly with grapefruit juice so check it out and make sure none of yours are. If you are using Cetirizine instead then beware that it can cause suicidal thoughts and even actions. It affected three in my own family alone and I know of others also affected – I’m not kidding, Google it! Pfizer’s trials listed it as a side effect in 2% of cases (from recollection) but that was considered not statistically significant – I disagree and reported it through the Yellow Card scheme and suggest you do the same if affected by any drugs.

It took me probably 30 years to discover some key things which can really help with hay fever which are mostly common-sense once you stop and think logically, and that applies to so much of life does it not?:
• Do not hang your washing out blowing in the breeze all day (in the pollen) and then expect that pollen to stay outdoors – I mean, why would it, when it could be inside putting its feet up too away from the risk of being rained down the drain?
• Taking your clothes off after coming in from outside and have ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ clothing can really help too.
• Wash your hair, eyebrows and eyelashes with a mild shampoo to remove all traces of pollen. Otherwise every time your eyelashes flicker you could be peppering your eyes and nose with pollen particles.
• Consider infrared light probes provided you do not mind being seen as Edward Lear’s ‘Dong with the Luminous Nose’
• Some believe that taking 1 teaspoon of local honey daily for a few months ahead of and during the hayfever season will help – there are those who say this is rubbish but the only way of finding out what works for you is to try it.
• Putting Vaseline around the inside of your nostrils is also found to be helpful by many, by stopping the pollen entering your system

Then too there was the one thing that several people told me, but I just did not listen. Well why would I? I liked my ice cream, cheese and garlic bread. This single biggie has changed my life, once I finally got the message.

I cut out cow’s milk for just two weeks as a trial but found I could not be bothered any more. It was too much like hard work to be triple checking things and making sure there was no lactose, lactate, casein and more. I returned to cow’s milk consumption and within 24 hours I was dragging myself around feeling absolutely rotten. I thought I was ‘going down with something’ and then I suddenly realised that this is how I had been feeling before I gave up cow’s milk. The decision then became much easier, I would eliminate cow’s milk from my diet but of course I had to ensure that I had substitute calcium and protein sources in my diet and this is especially important for growing children. Consider Pure spread or drizzled extra virgin olive oil on bread, Swedish Glace ice-cream and a suitable fortified milk substitute ensuring it does not cause you alternative issues e.g. Oat, Rice, Almond or Soya milk? Osteoporosis is a very real risk if you are not getting enough calcium and vitamin D so do be very careful and if in doubt do seek medical advice!

Not everyone is intolerant to cow’s milk and it can seem to some like this ‘allergies business’ is a bit of a fad, a band wagon that everyone is jumping on, but believe me when I say that if you are wondering whether this applies to you or someone you care about then it is worth trying an elimination diet of a single food type such as cow’s milk, done scrupulously for 3-4 weeks to rule it out, or as in my case rule it very firmly in as a culprit!

There is growing research in this area such as: but do make sure you do not leave yourself undernourished in terms of the calories that different food groups provide and even more importantly the range of nutrients they contain: vitamins, minerals, trace elements.

It is now 18 years since I eliminated cow’s milk products entirely and I maintained that for a full five years. Now what I do is avoid them entirely when the pollen count is high, minimise them a little when I notice I am getting allergy symptoms and the rest of the time, whilst I routinely have a cow’s milk substitute in my drinks and on my cereal – making sure it is calcium and vitamins enriched – I also eat some cheese, yoghurts, ice-cream and cream.

What measurable differences have I noticed? Well my grass pollen allergy which used to last from late May to mid-July approximately had extended until I was suffering symptoms such as a blocked nose and ‘colds that would not clear’ from January to November. I had previously been diagnosed as having perennial rhinitis and told to use a steroid nasal spray together with sodium cromoglycate eye drops. My window for symptoms now has gradually shrunk back to being just May – July as it was when I was a young child.

Modifying my diet in just this one small area has given me back my life as well as saving me a fortune in tissues, reduced the number of people giving me a wide berth because they think I am contagious with my streaming nose and repeated sneezing and allowed me to spend weeks outdoors on the allotment, admiring the view from under canvas out in the countryside and much much more.