Those beautiful yellow fields could be triggering your symptoms...

From May to around mid-June, oilseed rape pollination season is at its peak.

Oilseed rape is used in cattle feed, cleaning products, cooking oils and bio diesel and has grown rapidly in popularity over recent years. In fact, it’s the third biggest arable crop in the UK[1].

Those beautiful fields of yellow flowers that are so prevalent around the countryside today are oilseed rape.

Although they may be pretty to look at, these plants may actually be a symptom trigger. It’s not so much that the pollen causes a problem (the flowers are insect pollinated so only a small amount of pollen is airborne). What can trigger uncomfortable symptoms in those who are sensitive are the volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as terpenes, which the plant produces when in flower.

These VOCs do become airborne, so they can be inhaled. The characteristic odour of oilseed rape comes from the release of these VOCs. The quantity and strength of the emissions is influenced by environmental factors like light levels, humidity, time of day and temperature[2].

What are the symptoms of sensitivity to oilseed rape?

VOCs can cause irritation of the upper respiratory system, with a range of symptoms from eye irritation, headaches, coughs and even bronchial conditions. These symptoms can be similar to hay fever. If you have multiple chemical sensitivity, you could well react to the VOCs released by oilseed rape.

Without doing an allergy test or visiting a specialist, it’s hard to say for definite whether your symptoms are caused by oilseed rape. You may of course be allergic to the plant in its own right, but if traditional allergy treatments have little effect then it could be the VOCs that are causing your symptoms. (Please note: never stop taking any prescribed medications without consulting with your doctor first!)

Visit a specialist allergy clinic, or your GP, for further investigations. If you are confident that your symptoms are being triggered by oilseed rape, you may like to try the tips below.   

What can you do about it?

The plant, especially at this time of year, is hugely common. There aren’t any restrictions on the planting of oilseed rape next to residential areas at present, so if you’re sensitive to the plant then it can be very difficult to avoid it.

However, there are ways that you can feel more comfortable.

Avoidance is key. Create an oasis in your home or workplace, free from airborne VOCs that can come in through open windows.

Standard air purifiers that remove allergens such as pollens may not be all that helpful to those with a sensitivity to oilseed rape. However, an air purifier that removes chemicals such as VOCs can be very useful.

These specialist air purifiers will filter away the airborne VOCs so that you can breathe pure, clean air. They can differ in filter type and/or method of chemical removal, but all tackle airborne chemicals. Ensure you use an air purifier appropriate for your room size so that your air is cleaned properly – we add recommended room sizes based on 3 air changes per hour to all of our product pages.

A breathing mask or an Airvida can work wonders when you’re travelling. If you need to walk in areas near to an oilseed rape field, choose a mask that prevents you from inhaling VOCs. These masks contain efficient filters that reduce your exposure to airborne chemicals and vapours, so you’ll only breathe in clean air.

If you do find that you react to pollens, whether from the oilseed rape or others such as grass, birch or oak, you can try these therapeutic products which may help to relieve uncomfortable respiratory symptoms.

These can be used alongside prescribed medications or alone (in mild cases).

  • The HayMax balm is an organic formulation that is applied discreetly under the nostrils. This drug-free, natural balm blocks over 1/3rd of airborne pollens before you breathe them in.
  • The Sinus Plumber spray is a powerful, all-natural nasal spray with Horseradish and Capsaicin to help relieve sinus symptoms. It is 100% natural, non habit-forming and drug-free..

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[1] Source: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/teacher-forced-out-by-oil-seed-rape-6582234.html

[2] VOCs from oilseed rape: preliminary release rate study (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Further reading: http://www.oilseedrape.org.uk/

Disclaimer: Information included in this blog post is intended for information purposes only and is not to be used as a substitute for consultation with a medical practitioner. Images not necessarily to scale.

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