One in four people in the UK suffer from hay fever, statistics show, and the start of summer is the worst time of the year for some people. As temperatures rise stressed sufferers of hay fever sneeze their way through each day, bothered by itchy eyes, blocked sinuses and ticklish throats.
It affects up to 16 million people in the UK, says the BBC. And how do these sufferers get by? They take antihistamines and other drugs to ease the problem. If the problem is more severe there is immunotherapy, which slowly introduces small amounts of pollen to your system to build up resistance.
The treatment can be given as an injection or a tablet that dissolves under your tongue, but is reserved for severe cases and can take months to have any effect.
All in all, it’s good business for the pharmaceutical companies. With so many of the British population suffering from hay fever, there is a huge customer base for drug companies and retailers to chase.
The large number of people who are affected for a relatively short period of time during the year means that the price differences between products that are essentially the same become more obvious, reports the BBC.
Jayne Lawrence, chief scientist for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, says other factors are involved when people buy the products they believe will alleviate their allergic reaction.
“It is down to the placebo effect,” she said. “People may have this belief that a branded version must be superior to the generic unbranded alternative. And once they believe this they can report different responses to the drugs. But in reality, if they both have the same active ingredient then both pills are acting in exactly the same way.”
But it does not need to be medication that can help alleviate the hay fever. Over the years all kinds of treatments have been mooted, including acupuncture.
However, as Lawrence alluded in her ‘placebo’ comments, it can be a case of mind over matter in dealing with allergies.
And this is where hypnotherapy can play a crucial yet satisfying role. A few years back a study in Switzerland found that, after being taught hypnotherapy, hay fever sufferers had fewer symptoms. Professor Wolf Langewitz, who conducted the study, said that hypnosis altered the speed of blood flow through the tissues in the nose, helping to alleviate stuffiness and congestion.
How does this work? Well, in hay fever, increased blood flow to the nose causes congestion and it’s on this swelling of the vessels that hay fever drugs work.
Hypnosis can also work on this area in an effective and natural way. Mike Matthews, chair of Allergy UK said: “It’s well-documented that hypnosis can alter blood flow. Through your mind, in a way we don’t understand, you can directly affect the blood flow of a small part of your body.”
Knowing that a hay fever bout is imminent can cause anxiety and stress, too, and this is where hypnotherapy can play its role in helping the sufferer relax, thereby slowing the heart rate and decreasing the blood flow.
The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) has more than 1,800 therapists on its register – all highly trained and qualified. They can help hay fever sufferers learn self-hypnosis techniques which can remove the stress.
The NCH has worked steadily over the years to raise the standards of hypnotherapy in the UK and to encourage high training standards. Dealing with stress and anxiety is common place for clinical hypnotherapists and treatments have a high success rate.