I'm sure a lot of ears pricked up at recent news reports suggesting that gin may help people with their hay fever.
Sounds exciting eh? Well let me tell you more...
Sadly, while many of us may enjoy the occasional gin and tonic, it's not necessarily going to help with your hay fever.
What we do know is that some alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine contain high levels of a natural chemical called histamine, which is what the body makes when it responds to allergies. In fact, we take anti-histamine medicines to help stop the symptoms of hay fever.
Histamine is the reason why some people find they have an allergy to alcohol, and why some people find their hay fever gets worse with alcohol.
To add something else to the mix, hay fever can also trigger asthma symptoms such as coughing or wheezing, and increase the risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. Around 80 per cent of people with asthma also have hay fever, so it's important to keep on top of treatments for both to minimise symptoms. Even if the higher histamine levels in some drinks don't affect your asthma directly, they may irritate your airways making you more likely to react to another trigger like pollution or dust.
For some people, asthma symptoms are triggered when they drink any kind of alcohol, while others may only find symptoms come on when they have a particular kind of drink, such as wine or beer. If histamine triggers your asthma, then it may well be a sensible move to swap your beer for a gin and tonic.
However, you may still be susceptible to the effects of pollen in the air. There are also other substances added to alcoholic drinks such as sulphites that can increase asthma symptoms, and asthma triggers can change over time. So, knowing what drinks have the lowest chance of affecting your asthma can be a bit of a minefield! As such, the best thing you can do to prevent asthma symptoms and asthma attacks is to keep on top of your medicine routine. It's also a good idea to get to know your individual asthma triggers and try to avoid these wherever possible; whether this is cigarette smoke, pets, or beer and wine.
Most people don't know about all the different things that can trigger asthma, but Asthma UK's website can help you.
Inevitably some triggers, such as pollen, can be almost impossible to avoid, but you can still reduce your risk of developing asthma symptoms when you're exposed to them by taking your preventer medicine as prescribed. This will help to reduce sensitivity and irritation in your airways, meaning there will be less chance of a reaction when you come into contact with your triggers. It is also still important to carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times just in case you get asthma symptoms, and make sure your friends and colleagues know what to do if you have an asthma attack.
So, bad news! Gin isn't the cure for hay fever or asthma that we have been searching for, but better understanding what sets off your asthma might be something worth drinking to!