Record high numbers of Britons have complained of hay fever this summer, sparking theories about how to manage symptoms.
Some of the advice being peddled online includes that having sex, eating honey and only venturing outdoors at night will help the pollen-plagued manage their symptoms.
Other have said that people can ‘grow out’ of hay fever, rain will wash away pollen and that elderly Britons aren’t struggling with hay fever-induced sneezing and coughing.
But as all of England is braced for ‘very high’ pollen counts until Saturday, MailOnline dismisses some of the bogus claims gaining most traction.
All of England is braced for ‘very high’ pollen counts until Saturday, while the rest of the UK is set to face high pollen counts until Friday
Whenever mercury starts to shoot up, social media becomes rife with claims that having sex can ease hay fever
Having sex will NOT work
Whenever mercury starts to shoot up, social media becomes rife with claims that having sex can ease hay fever.
It was sparked by study from Iran in 2008 that noted a blocked or runny nose — tell-tale hay fever symptoms — are caused by blood vessels in the nose expanding in response to a high pollen count.
Because nasal sprays — often recommended by pharmacists to manage symptoms — work by causing the blood vessels in the nose to narrow, researchers suggested that male ejaculation, which has the same effect, could alleviate these symptoms.
It prompted advocates to recommend that men should have sex or masturbate when suffering nasal congestion — if it is caused by hay fever, or even a cold or flu, which have the same effect on expanding blood vessels in the nose.
The researchers advised that patients should ‘adjust the number of intercourses or masturbations depending on the severity of the symptoms’.
But the same paper was dismissed just two months later — in the same journal. Other experts in Iran called the supposed treatment ‘inconvenient, unreliable and potentially hazardous’.
The belief is honey, especially locally-grown versions that are not processed, pasteurised or filtered to the same extent as commercial honey, contains traces of pollen which can act as immunotherapy that trains your body to cope by consuming small doses of pollen. But the evidence on whether it actually works isn’t quite as sweet
Eating honey WON’T help
The belief is honey, especially locally-grown versions that are not processed, pasteurised or filtered to the same extent as commercial honey, contains traces of pollen.
Some believe it can therefore act as immunotherapy that trains your body to cope by consuming small doses of pollen.
But the evidence on whether it actually works isn’t quite as sweet.
The pollen that triggers sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes is small grains shed from grass and trees, which bees do not visit to pollinate.
Instead, they come into contact with heavier flower-based pollen, which does not cause hay fever. Only small amounts end up in the final product.
Some studies have suggested honey does work, but critics have pointed huge flaws in their methodology, piling huge doubts on whether the results can be trusted.
Research by the University of Connecticut from 2002, which is deemed the best study, involved giving 36 hay fever sufferers one tablespoon a day of either small-batch and unfiltered honey; nationally-collected, filtered and pasteurised honey; or corn syrup with honey flavouring.
The findings, published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, show that after 10 days of tracking their symptoms, none of the groups reported any easing of their symptoms.
Around half of people find that their symptoms get better with age and one in five say they disappear completely, according to a Swedish study.
You CAN ‘grow out’ of it
There is no cure for hay fever. But around half of people find that their symptoms get better with age and one in five say they disappear completely, according to a Swedish study.
Researchers at University Hospital in Lund, Sweden quizzed 5,000 people aged 20 to 60 on their sneezing, and coughing habits due to hay fever, fur and dust allergies. Each completed two questionnaires, eight years apart.
Results, published in the scientific journal Allergy, showed that 20 per cent reported that their symptoms disappeared within the eight-year period, with people in their fifties most likely to report that they had vanished.
A separate 23-year study of more than 700 students in the US found 55 per cent reported their hay fever had improved, of which 23 per cent became symptom-free.
However, a third of the participants, who were 40-years-old when they updated scientists on their symptoms, said their hay fever had not changed, while one in 10 reported that it had worsened with age.
Medics are unsure why some people are able to shake off their hay fever.
But the NHS notes that around half of people report their symptoms eating with age, even if they do not disappear completely.
Those who think they will not be coughing and sneezing if they keep inside during the day and only go out at night may be disappointed — depending on what type of pollen is triggering their symptoms
Hay fever ISN’T always worse in the day
The NHS advises the one in five Britons suffering hay fever to stay indoors whenever the pollen count is high.
A high pollen count is associated with daylight hours because sun and warmth cause plants to release pollen into the air, while cooler night-time periods are thought of as low-risk for allergy sufferers.
But those who think they will not be coughing and sneezing if they keep inside during the day and only go out at night may be disappointed — depending on what type of pollen is triggering their symptoms.
A team of researchers from Adam Mickiewicz University in Umultowska, Poland, studied the levels of five common types of pollen during the day, between 8am and 8pm, and at night, between 8pm and 8am.
Levels of mugwort pollen — which peaks between July and August in the UK — were lower after the sun went down.
But the concentration of ragweed pollen, which thrives in summer and can remain circulating until September, were higher at night.
And the rates of grass, which runs from May to September, and alder pollen, which circulates from January to April, varied little over a 24-hour period.
Light drizzle can stop pollen spreading through the air. US researchers, who analysed 14 years of weather and pollen count data, found that pollen levels fell after if there was less than 10cm of rain
And rain DOESN’T always reduce pollen count
Some hay fever sufferers may be hoping the UK’s sunny forecast is replaced with showers in the hopes that wet weather will bring down sky-high pollen levels.
Light drizzle can stop pollen spreading through the air. US researchers, who analysed 14 years of weather and pollen count data, found that pollen levels fell if there was less than 10cm of rain.
But heavy rain can actually worsen hay fever symptoms. The US team found pollen increased if rain fall soared above 10 cam.
And healthcare data from South Korea shows people were more likely to visit their doctor due to hay fever after heavy rain or typhoons.
But the Met Office warns that heavy and prolonged rainfall can keep pollen counts low all day. Meanwhile, rain in the afternoon is less effective at bringing down pollen levels.
And while consistent rainfall over autumn and winter decreases pollen, intermittent wet days tends to trigger a more severe pollen season overall, as this encourages plants to grow and release more, it says.
By contrast, sunny weather increases photosynthesis — when plants create oxygen — which has a knock-on effect of increasing pollen production.
While hay fever rates are higher among people in their teens and early twenties, researchers have said some people do not suffer any symptoms until they are in their seventies
You only get it when you’re YOUNG
Some unlucky people will develop hay fever later in life despite being unaffected by pollen throughout their childhood and early adulthood.
People can be predisposed to suffering hay fever — such as if they have a family history of allergies. But there is no way to know when they will first suffer from the condition.
While hay fever rates are higher among people in their teens and early twenties, researchers have said some people do not suffer any symptoms until they are in their seventies.
No-one knows exactly why hay fever can appear out of the blue but there are a number of theories.
Some experts say that older sufferers may have always had hay fever but their symptoms were not noticeable until later life.
Global warming is also thought to play a role as it extends summers, prolonging the period that pollen is released. This could exacerbate hay fever rates, with the number of sufferers doubling over the last three decades.
Studies suggest more hygienic modern living means our bodies are less able to bat off hay fever compared to our ancestors, as we are exposed to more disinfectants and cleaning products and pick up fewer infections from outdoors and animals.
And the Covid lockdown — which saw Britons isolated from others for months — may have weakened immunity even further, experts say. Working from home and having limited close contacts during the pandemic is a ‘plausible’ reason for why more people seem to be suffering hay fever in the last year, according to Professor Paul Hunter.