The hayfever season is upon us, and already sneezes and itchy eyes are causing irritation across the nation.
The bad news is, as yet, there's no definitive cure for this bothersome affliction -but there are some proven ways to reduce the symptoms, and it might just be a case of trial and error before you find the options that are best for you.
Use over-the-counter medicines
Eye drops, oral tablets and nasal sprays can nip the problem right in the bud for many hayfever sufferers. That's because they contain antihistamines, which work by blocking the action of histamine – the chemical released by the body when it thinks it is under attack from an allergen.
If you find what you buy in Boots or Superdrug isn't quite strong enough, there are some more effective options you can get from your GP.
If no amount of medicine does the trick, the next stage might be to consider asking your GP for immunotherapy – this is the gradual introduction of small amounts of pollen to your system via injection or tablet, and the subsequent monitoring of your allergic reaction.
It is worth bearing in mind that the treatment is only offered by certain specialist medical centres, so travelling long distances may be necessary.
Get some indoor air filters
These won't make your time spent outside any easier, but they will at least provide you with some much-needed respite once you head indoors (pollen is very small and is usually carried inside by the wind).
They work by trapping pollen articles in air so that they are no longer floating around inside the room. Hepa (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filters are particularly good, since they catch and remove even the smallest particles.
They are available to order from websites such as Allergy UK.
The last thing you want to do when you're on the verge of an earthquake-inducing sneeze is to take a deep breath. But a study by a Swiss research team in 2005 showed that this is an effective method for diminishing symptoms, and you do it by hypnotherapy – closing your eyes, breathing deeply and letting go of tension.
A spoonful of honey
Since local honey is contaminated with local pollen, ingesting it supposed to desensitises you to it. For it to work, you should eat honey from within 10 miles of your home (so may not be the most suitable choice for Londoners).
The downside is, it's not actually scientifically proven, but the worst that can happen is that you eat a delicious dollop of honey for nothing.
Shine a red light up your nose
The idea behind this is the intense light gets blood flowing more quickly, thereby reducing histamine production and settling down inflammation. Lloyds pharmacy has developed a phototherapy probe specifically for this purpose, and it has already been shown to calm sneezing and itchy eyes.
Wear wrap-around sunglasses
They may not be the coolest looking shades, but who cares? Better to keep your eyes protected from the evil pollen. With wrap-around sunglasses, not even an inch of the eye area is left exposed to the air outside. They won't protect your nose, though – you'll have to find a separate remedy for that.