The beginning of spring is often widely welcomed, as it brings warmer, longer days and fresh life to the trees, grass and flowers. With everything in bloom, the environment may seem idyllic. However, for the 40 to 60 million people affected by seasonal allergies, the onset of spring can be very unpleasant, accompanied by a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever) can actually also be perennial, meaning symptoms can occur year-round. While there are many OTC remedies available, some are known to cause drowsiness and other unpleasant other side effects. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to counterbalance the allergic response of the season for hay fever and other allergy sufferers.
Make the Home an Allergy-Free Zone
According to WebMD, allergies are the result of the immune system becoming overly sensitized to a typically harmless substance, like pollen, dust or animal dander. One of the easiest ways to lessen allergy symptoms is to begin by eliminating them from the indoor environment as much as possible. Before entering the house, remove shoes (and encourage everyone in the household to follow suit) to avoid tracking outside pollutants into rugs, carpet, and other areas where they can linger and trigger symptoms. Avoid opening the windows on windy days, and be sure to change out of clothes and shower after spending time outdoors, says Readers Digest. Regular vacuuming with a HEPA filter can help reduce animal hair and dander shed, along with dust mites and pollens.
Although decorative throw pillows and layers of drapery and window coverings may be visually appealing, they can be harboring irritants and should be limited, or at least regularly cleaned. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends switching to “mite-proof” bedding, which can minimize exposure to dust mites. Keep pets off furniture, especially the bed, and do any brushing or grooming outdoors. Also, consider adding a dehumidifier to frequently occupied rooms to help control mold, another common hay fever trigger.
Take Precautions Outdoors
Having allergies does not mean that the outdoors and spring weather cannot be enjoyed. Protect the face from wind-borne pollen and mold spores by wearing large sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, which can help reduce the risk of itchy, watery eyes.
When possible, avoid spending time outside between 5am and 10am, when pollen counts are at their highest, according to Pollen.com. Further, experts from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recommend exercising in the evening, when tree and ragweed pollen tends to be at its lowest.
Many weather sources now offer pollen level information, along with handy alert notifications, to help track allergy triggers. Warm, breezy mornings tend to be the worst weather condition for allergies. On especially high pollen count days, avoid going outside or go during off-peak hours, suggests WebMD.
Try Natural Remedies for Symptom Relief
Nasal irrigation using a distilled, sterile saline solution and a neti pot can effectively flush mucus and allergens from the nose, suggests the Mayo Clinic. Always be sure to thoroughly clean the pot after each use, and allow to air dry. Neti pots can be found at most pharmacies or natural health food stores.
Butterbur is becoming the one of the most popular herbal remedies for tackling pollen allergies. Dr. David Rakel, founder and director of the University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine Program, says “butterbur is the Singulair of the herbal world,” with the most documented evidence behind it. Some research has shown that butterbur root extract is as effective as antihistamines like Zyrtec and Allegra at relieving nasal symptoms—without causing drowsiness.
Some foods may even help block the release of histamine, which causes inflammation. Quercetin, for instance, is a plant flavonoid and antioxidant found in many fruits and vegetables, including kale, blueberries, broccoli and tomatoes. In some studies, it has been shown to stabilize histamine-releasing cells, suggesting that it may provide anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effects, according to research from the University of Maryland Medical Center. Further research from the Department of Pathology and Diagnostics at the University of Verona in Italy has shown quercetin and other flavonoids to have anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic agent properties. Quercetin is also available in supplement form.
Bromelain has been shown in some studies to help alleviate nasal swelling and thin mucus, enabling better breathing, according to WebMd. Pineapple, a good source of bromelain, has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can possibly curb swelling inside the nasal cavity.
For the most effective allergy relief, a combination approach of complementary care will offer the best results. Spring is a time to be enjoyed, and making simple lifestyle tips can make a notable difference in dealing with pesky allergies. And, of course, if your symptoms don’t subside, be sure to seek the advice of your physician.
This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.