For many, summer and drinking go hand-in-hand – it’s the season for pints in beer gardens and wine in the park.
The problem is, a lot of us are stuck ‘enjoying’ these drinks with red, puffy eyes and our noses streaming into our glasses, thanks to the ultimate killjoy, hay fever.
The seasoned hay fever sufferer will make sure they’re stocked up on anti-histamines way before pollen starts to fill the spring breeze, but what you might not know is how alcohol can affect hay fever, and which types are best for it.
How does alcohol affect hay fever?
It’s not actually the alcohol itself that affects your allergies, but rather different substances found in alcoholic drinks, containing histamine and sulphites, which cause the symptoms of hay fever.
According to Livestrong, histamine tightens lung muscles, relaxes muscles in blood vessels and speeds up muscle movement in the intestines, while also increasing mucus production and causing inflammation. Sound familiar?
High levels of histamine tend to be found in darker, fermented alcoholic drinks, like wine and beer, which means that for some sufferers as much as a few sips can bring on these symptoms.
Stay in the clear
While no alcohol is going to make your hay fever actively better, Asthma UK say there are drinks you can choose which will stop you from suffering more, namely clear alcohols like gin and vodka.
Gin does not naturally contain any sulphites, and many vodkas are also clear of them, meaning a G&T or a vodka lemonade might be your best bet for a rooftop tipple. Given gin and tonic is practically the perfect summer drink, we can’t really complain.
Conversely, beer and wine both develop high levels of histamine in the fermentation process. A 2001 study conducted by the Auckland Allergy Clinic found that 22 out of 28 participants developed allergy-like symptoms after drinking a glass of wine.
Which drinks are particularly bad?
If you’re a champagne-loving hay fever sufferer, we’ve got some very bad news for you – there’s nothing as bad for your allergies in the world of food and drink than a glass of bubbly.
Champagne contains around 84mg of histamine per 125ml glass. When you compare that with the next worst, red wine, at 15mg for a large glass, you’ve got a pretty strong argument for saving the Moët for the winter months.
Beer varies significantly by type, but a typical lager is around 14mg, while white is significantly better for you.
Will food affect my hay fever too?
Unfortunately the answer here is yes. Tofu, sauerkraut and cured meats are all particularly high in histamine, as well as blue cheese and parmesan.
Canned fish, aubergine, citrus fruits and ketchup are also all worth avoiding if you’re a particularly bad sufferer.
How’s the pollen count this year?
Not to bombard you with yet more bad news but, well, here’s some more bad news: Professor Stephen Durham, a professor of Allergy and Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College London told LBC earlier today that we can expect a particularly rough year when it comes to sneezing our brains out through our noses.
“The tree pollen season is starting later this season after the cold spring delayed germination. The warm weather is going to bring on high pollen counts,” he said.
“It seems that there’s been a sudden burst due to the warm weather and we get this late germination and pollen release at once.”
The foods that can ease hayfever symptoms
If you’re looking for foods and drinks that can actually help to soothe hayfever symptoms, then you’re in luck, as there are several – just not gin unfortunately!
Rather than simply being low in histamine, some foods are actually rich in antihistamines, which help to block or disrupt histamine receptors – this is why many people take antihistamine tablets for hayfever. Foods that are rich in flavonoids such as quercetin, vitamin C or beta-carotene can help to block histamine and reduce inflammation.
Our top anti-histamine foods include:
Garlic – this is a rich source of quercitin and helps to support the immune system
Ginger – this is a popular choice for reducing hayfever symptoms, whether as a tea or added to foods and smoothies
Onions – these are another good source of quercetin and vitamin C
Blueberries – this superfood is packed full of vitamin Cand quercetin
Nettle – you can buy this as a powder to add to smoothies or you could try nettle tea
A smoothie is a great way to get more of these natural anti-histamine foods into your diet. Try a delicious hayfever-blasting smoothie, containing blueberries, strawberries, honey and ginger.