Which Plants Set Off Your Allergies?

Spring is finally upon us – allergy sufferers beware!

For most British people, spring is usually a time to celebrate.

The weather gets warmer, we tentatively start leaving the house without our winter coats and optimistic Dads attempt firing up their BBQs for the first time. Unfortunately for thousands of Brits, the emergence of spring spells the beginning of a trying time that doesn’t end until autumn. Allergy sufferers across the country are given the chance to recover from their ailments during the winter, but as soon as new life begins to emerge, the pollen, seeds and sap that is the cause of countless allergic reactions, rises once more and makes life difficult for those susceptible to reactions.

Those who spend the majority of their time outside are at the most risk. Gardeners are usually the first to spot the changing of the seasons. The beginning of spring is heralded with new shoots pushing through the earth, not all of which are completely welcome…Amongst the plants that gardeners are attempting to cultivate, there are many which they’d rather not see on their land too. Japanese knotweed is one particular plant that often finds a way of re-establishing itself, even after its been vigorously burnt and dug out. Thankfully, whilst getting rid of Japanese knotweed can be a real pain, at least it doesn’t cause any harm to our bodies.

Plants can prove to be truly troublesome to allergy sufferers throughout the summer months and these are the amongst the worst offenders:

Birch tree

It starts as a tickling in the nose which slowly works its way to the back of your throat and then causes an intense watering in your eyes. Hayfever sufferers will recognise these symptoms and understand them too well. Birch trees are just one of many species that can cause real problems to those with allergies. It’s the sheer number of these trees nature more than anything else that makes it so difficult to deal with during the summer.

Sheep’s sorrel

Weeds are difficult to deal with and Sheep’s sorrel is one such plant that is also known to cause some irritating issues with our skin. Although this common weed is a popular choice among foragers (who prize the leaves for its tangy tastes), it can easily irritate the skin, making it a particularly tricky weed to remove. If you spot this pest in your back garden then you can either nip it in the bud during spring and throw it in a salad, or buy a strong weedkiller to get to the root of the problem.


It should come as little surprise that the common nettle is one of the least loved plants in the UK. It’s prickly sting can leave raised, itchy marks on the skin which take hours to subside and some people can have even more unfortunate side-effects including hives, sneezing eyes. Taking an anti-histamine should help combat the hay fever-like symptoms however there is no protection against the stings, unless you’re planning on covering yourself in plant-proof clothing!

Bloating, Burgers, Cooker Spares & Oven Cleaning

Are you feeling bloated?

Although CYANS was started to specifically help out young people who have issues with allergies, over the years we have had to adopt our outreach pattern as more and more adult folks have got in contact with us asking for help.

Our bodies can develop new responses to allergies at any point in our lives which which means that people of all ages are affected by allergies. Once an allergy has been discovered it tends to stick with the individual for life, which is why it’s often better to discover them earlier in life.

As we get older we tend to form stronger habits which can make adapting to a new allergy difficult, especially if they’re centred around something that we love to eat. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for adults to identify representing symptoms as allergies. A sudden bout of diarrhoea, difficulties breathing or fatigue can be blamed on any number of things – usually the last thing you’re going to do is assume that the breakfast that you’ve been eating everyday for a decade is no longer compatible with your body.

Jeff Pullman, a travelling repairs and cleaning technician got in contact with us a few weeks ago to ask our advice about a particular issues that he’d been grappling with for a while:

The internet is a real nightmare for worriers like me.

My job is a peculiar one, it caters to the obsessives of the country who can’t cope with saying goodbye to their beloved domestic appliances. I fix and clean obsolete fridges, ovens, washing machines and dishwashers for a living. In order to do my job I rely on a number of companies to supply me with all the spare parts that I need to fix up my customers’ machines; everything from Belling cooker hood filters to New World cooker knobs and Stoves oven filaments.

The first bout of bloating took me completely by surprise whilst I was driving home from doing some oven cleaning in Bicester. It had been a busy week, travelling all around the country picking up bits and pieces from warehouses and visiting dozens of homes; needless to say I was looking forward to getting home for the weekend. On my way back and with a couple of hours left to go, I stopped at a roadside services to indulge myself in a regular Friday treat: a double-cheeseburger from one of the two world renowned fast-food chains. I’d never felt ill from eating at this place before, but within an hour of leaving the service station I was hit by a horrendous bout of bloating, something that I’d never experienced before.

Before I knew it I was wrestling with my belt, desperately trying to give my stomach room to expand. I had no reprieve for the entire drive home, by the time I reached my destination I was exhausted and still no less bloated than before. I barely slept that night and ended up hunched in front of my laptop still unable to shake the gas, researching what could have caused such an adverse reaction in my body. By the morning I’d determined not to ignore these symptoms and booked in with my local GP.

I’m yet to get to the bottom of what’s causing my bloating, but with tests in the pipeline I’m looking forward to finding out if I can eat a double-cheeseburger again without the fear of causing another bout of bloating…

Summer Hay Fever Guide

Sneezing? Sniffly? Itchy eyes?

Hay fever is a type of inflammation caused by a reaction to a number of allergens that are borne in the air.

These common symptoms can often be mistaken for the common cold, once they’ve persisted for more than a week it’s always best to go to the doctor to confirm that you’re suffering from hay fever. You can develop hay fever at any point during your life, so don’t dismiss it as a possibility if you suddenly develop symptoms during your middle-age.

We’ve put together a handful of tips and tricks for you to prepare yourself for the hay fever season:

Understanding reactions

Once you understand how pollen functions you’ll be able to better protect yourself from contamination. Despite its name all sorts of allergens can cause a hay fever reaction. Pollen from trees and grass are the most common sources, but hay fever sufferers can also be affected by house dust mites and mould too. You’ll know when you’ve come into contact with an allergen almost instantly, as your nose will tickle and you’ll most likely sneeze. This is usually followed by a post-nasal drip, red eyes and even issues with your sinuses. Don’t feel like once you’ve had a reaction that there’s no curing the symptoms, there are actions that you can take to remedy them.

Get protected

Despite years of research there is still no cure for hay fever. Like the common cold, it’s a condition that affects millions of people all around the world. Although there’s no way for you to completely rid yourself of this affliction, there are a number of medications that you can take to reduce the symptoms. Oral antihistamines (tablets/pills) can be taken to control the majority of the symptoms, but there are also eye-drops and nasal sprays that you can buy from your pharmacist – many of these remedies are best taken before your symptoms set in, so always remember to buy them before the hay fever kicks in around May.

Stay inside!

One of the best ways to avoid contact time with pollen is unfortunately the least fun: stay inside with the windows shut tight. It’s probably the worst thing that you could say to your kid on a lovely summer’s day, but if their symptoms are seriously debilitating then you need to keep them inside, especially during the times in the year when the pollen count is high. The amount of pollen count in the air varies depending on what kinds of flora and fauna is in your area, however it’s usually at it’s highest at two point during the day. Unfortunately these happen to be the times that you’re most likely to be outside of the house: 7am-9m and 5pm-7pm.

Be aware of your environment

If you do insist on leaving the house during peak pollen count times then there are a few little tricks that you can use to avoid worsening your reactions. Your body produces histamine as a response to contact with allergens, but it’s not just pollen that causes this process. Hay fever sufferers should avoid pub gardens and BBQs at all costs; the toxic combination of smoke, alcohol and pollen make these places a nightmare for your body. If you simply can’t resist the allure of the garden then avoid drinking alcohol (when dehydrated your body will produce more histamine), wear a pair of wraparound shades to protect your eyes from pollen and steer clear of any smokers.

The House of Allergens

Newly divorced Mum of three, Janet, already had enough on her plate when she moved her family half way across the country…

….but there was nasty surprise waiting for her in her new home.

She got in touch with us last month to tell us about how a whole list of allergies turned a difficult house move into a veritable nightmare:

‘Breakin’ up is hard to do’, that’s how the old Neil Sedaka song goes and damn it if Neil wasn’t right.

My marriage of 15 years fell apart in the summer of 2017. It was a difficult time for me, a mother of three who had dedicated so much time to keeping our family unit together and it must have been even more difficult for our kids, who had been blissfully unaware of the increasingly complicated nature of their parents’ relationship. Despite their Father and I keeping our differences under wraps for such a long time, there was always going to be a point when we’d have to draw the curtain on our old life and that happened in September.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a promotion around the time the divorce was entering its final proceedings, I was offered a considerable pay rise and a decent relocation package. All together I had enough cash to take the kids and start a new life in what was ostensibly my dream home.

The trip was filled with questions.

“Where are we going to go to school?” “What about our friends?” “Can we stop to buy doughnuts?”

It wasn’t an easy drive, still I was spurred on by the belief that I was doing the right thing. When I’d first visited the house it had seemed like the perfect choice – finally something had come my way. The house was gorgeous, the kids would each have their own room with space to grow, there was a garden for them to play in and I was getting the kitchen that I’d always dreamt of cooking in. What could possibly go wrong?

The first night we spent there we all slept in the same room with our belongings in boxes, it would have been idyllic had it not been for the screams that I was woken up with at 4am. Jay had sneezed which had then led to an explosive nose bleed, Carrie had broken out in hives and poor Sarah could hardly breathe – meanwhile a nasty rash had broken out over my forehead: we were a sorry state in the emergency room that night.

After a week of rigorous tests the verdict was in: we were allergic to our new home. Dust mites triggered Sarah’s asthma and lingering dog hair had caused Jay’s reaction, but the doctors were still none the wiser when it came to my odd rash or Carrie’s hives.

I spent my evenings frantically Googling our symptoms, whilst the NHS processed our blood samples. Something about our genetic makeup was making both of us react to our new home. I exhausted options as far ranging as Nuclear Allergies (the local power station insisted that their Nuclear Event Detectors had not been triggered, despite my repeated requests for information) and the levels of chlorine in our new drinking water.

The doctors came to the conclusion that stress was the cause for mine and Carrie’s skin reactions. In the weeks since we arrived we’ve been able to eradicate any traces of allergens from our home – the symptoms have subsided but I think we’re all likely to remember that night for a long time to come…

Thailand’s Hidden Killer: Peanuts

Some allergies don’t develop until we get to a certain age…

Jane’s first travelling experience was mired by the discovery of a rather tricky allergy. She tells us all about her brush with death whilst travelling in South-East Asia:

“The sun looks bigger here than back home.

It’s a different colour too, more of a rich blood orange than the sickly yellow it is back in the UK. I watch this bloated star rise and fall four times from my hard hospital bed in Chiang Mai, whilst my laboured breathing worries the Thai septuagenarian next to me.

There were a few cliches that I’d expected to meet whilst travelling in South East Asia: bed mites in dirty hostels, a few bouts of diarrhoea and a couple of regrettable decisions made whilst under the influence – in the three months I spent out there I  successfully avoided all of them, but I somehow still managed to rack up an impressive 2 weeks out of 12 in a dingy hospital, gamely trying to stay alive – much to the consternation of the other occupants on the ward.

I had the usual string of injections before I headed out here in the October after I finished college. Each time Mum drove me to the doctors was another opportunity for her to dole out another pearl of wisdom. She’d never spent longer than 2 weeks outside of the UK, so the sheer notion of me spending three months in South-East Asia of all places had understandably got her worrying.

“Just make sure you wear mosquito repellent in the evening, that’s when they bite the most.” “Make sure all the hot food you buy is piping hot and fresh – you don’t know how long some of that stuff’s been hanging around.” “For God’s sake don’t even think about walking anywhere by yourself, always take a friend, even if it’s someone you just met.”

Ironically, my Mum never thought to warn me about the bowl of Pad Thai that nearly ended my life at the age of 18.

At first I thought my Fanta had been spiked. There was a hot prickly sensation at the back of my throat and I felt a flush rising up my face. Some Nelly Furtado tune from the 90s was blaring out of tinny speakers behind me and I remember struggling to concentrate on what my new friend was saying. I’d reluctantly accepted his offer to buy me lunch, but it was my first day in Chiang Mai and I needed someone to show me around.

Scott was Australian,  typically sun-kissed and a mess of traveller stereotypes. Matted dreadlocks brushed against his bare shoulders and there always seemed to be a fine covering of sand on his face, to go along with a faint aroma of hashish – he was literally the last person I expected to know First Aid.

When I came to in the bed my worried neighbour told me in broken English that a dirty traveller had stopped by to see how I was doing – she didn’t seem pleased about it.

I never got the chance to thank Scott for saving my life that day, but needless to say he changed my opinion on travellers and peanuts forever.

How I Found Love Through Breast Enlargement and Allergies

Allergies can transform lives in the most unusual of ways.

Angela got in touch with us to share her story – a story that starts out with her mission to get a cosmetic surgery and somehow ended up with her getting married. We’ll let her take it from here:

“I never thought that I’d get married.

As long as I can remember I’ve been self-conscious of my body.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Nobody’s completely comfortable with themselves and plenty of those people go on to marry and find love.’ Well, for me, it was a little different. You see – I was a child of the 80s: probably the worse time in history to have any kind of body confidence issues.

Just imagine the way it was back then…

It’s 1985, you’re 14-years old.

Whether you’re a boy or girl – you’re faced with completely untenable, unrealistically attainable visions of how you’re meant to look. Beautifully sculpted creatures look down on you from your convex TV screen. Arnold Schwarzenegger breeds fantasies in every boy’s mind about how they too will be as tall and as wide as Dutch. They’re confident they can do it; pump iron until their arms are as impossibly rotund as his so that all the figure-of-eight women will flock to their side.

For the girls like me, our dreams were a little harder to realise. You see any guy could dream of going to the gym, of pumping their body full of the steroids that were yet to be illegalised and growing exponentially. Our role models were the romantic leads in every movie – they were beautiful, blonde and buxom. Women like Daryl Hannah and Molly Ringwald were my unattainable idols. Sexualised elfin characters who were angelic in their manner yet somehow encapsulated what it meant to be a woman.

Unfortunately for 14-year old me, I didn’t look like Daryl Hannah or Molly Ringwald.

I looked like a scruffy, sexless urchin – an extra who had wandered off the set off a low-budget Dickens TV adaptation. Those feelings of inadequacy stayed with me for decades,  until I’d saved enough money to pay for my breast enhancement surgery which brings me to the discovery of my allergy.

It’s estimated that around 1 in 10,000-20,000 people experience anaphylaxis during anaesthetic. I’d never been operated on prior to going under the knife for the first time. Within seconds of going under, my body rejected the anaesthesia and my body began shutting down. The operating surgeon had to act quickly to save my life, he told me later that it was touch and go, that because of my reaction I would have to wait to get tested for any other allergies.

I never got that surgery. Whilst I was waiting to get my blood tested in my local hospital, I met a charming man who listened to my story and told me that I’d dodged a bullet. That I didn’t need surgery. That I should look online to see what Daryl Hannah and Molly Ringwald look like now.

I never thought that I’d get married, but I tied the knot this year with that very same man and I have my allergy to anaesthetics to thank for that.”

Jack’s Journey: From Wheezy to Breezy

When we were first introduced to Jack, he was a young lad who struggled to travel anywhere without triggering an attack.

“I’m OK whenever I’m by meself, but as soon as I got to meet new mates I get all wheezy and bleedy – my Mum thinks I’m allergic to making friends.”

Growing up can often be a real challenge for some kids.

It’s easy for us adults to forget, but the schoolyard can often be an unforgiving place and it’s important to remember that the incidents that occur to kids during these sophomore years of education often shape the way they interact socially for the rest of their lives.

During these formative years, children are ushered through a strangely rushed, unrealistically structured simulacrum of what their later life might become. They’re thrown into rooms with strangers of their own age who they spend years getting to know. In this time, each child will slowly be understanding and learning more about themselves, as well as their class mates, but the way that they will end up socialising as adults will largely depend on their peer group.

Unfortunately for Jack, when we first met him, his peer group had by and large turned against him.

Being allergic to a number of allergens, both food-based and air borne, Jack found it difficult getting through a conversation without either sneezing, convulsing wildly or suffering explosive nosebleeds. This litany of symptoms became a barrier to his making any friends as he was often mercilessly ridiculed for not being able to make it through an hour’s class without spraying any amount of mucus, blood or, in extreme cases, fragments of his own shredded nasal passage across his desk and onto his class mates.

Even his parents struggled to like him.

We first received word from Jack in the form of a letter and he’s given permission for us to reproduce some of it here:

Dear CYANs,

I’m writing to you today to ask for help. My name is Jack and I am 12 years old. For 3 years now I have been sneezing, having fits and nose bleeds. I do not know what it is that is making it happen and my Mum and Dad have given up taking me to the doctors – they think that I am doing it on purpose to get out of school because I am being bullied a lot.

The truth is that I didn’t get bullied until I started getting ill. The kids in my class make fun of me all the time and none of the girls like me because there’s always blood on my shirts and hands and school books.

Can you find out what is wrong with me so I can live a normal life and be a normal teenager when I turn 13?

Thank you very much

Jack ********

We were moved by Jack’s honest letter and made it our goal to find him and help him, so that he could get on the road to recovery and claim the normal life that he had been deprived of.

Thankfully, we were able to successfully track him down, talk to is parents and get our specialists out to him. His acute form of hay fever mixed with a rare thinness of the blood was the reason for his embarrassing symptoms – we were happy to get him the treatment he needed, as well as a brand new latex-rubber suit to wear to school – we’ve not heard from him in a while, but we’re sure his bullying days are over for good now.