Experts say this spring's allergy season may be one of the worst ones yet. For millions of us, it means make mad dash to the pharmacy to stock up on allergy medications – and stay in your bunker till next winter.
The clocks just sprung forward and long, cold winter of 2017-18 is beginning to ease across the country. Especially for people with asthma, for whom this season can be really difficult. Here are some spring allergy tips to ease your allergies so you can hang with the crowd
And after a long hard winter in much of the U.S, spring season is a welcome change of pace. But for people with seasonal allergies, spring also signals a call to battle stations: people vs. pollen and other allergens. The length of allergy season are trending up due to global warming and climate change.
Causes Of Spring Allergies
Sneezing, runny nose, teary eyes and sporting tissues everywhere you is no way to make a fashion statement. For 40-60 million Americans, exposure to pollen can trigger hay fever or seasonal allergies. Don’t let the name full you; you do not have to be exposed to hay to develop symptoms related to pollen exposure. Contrary to the name, you don’t have to have a fever to have hay fever.
What Causes This Reaction In Your Body?
Much like skin or other allergies, hay fever develops as a result of your body’s immune system being sensitized by the pollen (allergen) in the air and the system overreacts, causing inflammation, production of excess mucus and allergic conjunctivitis or watery eyes. The main sources of outdoor allergens are tree pollen, ragweed and grass.
Unfortunately, as the warm spring weather leans in, clinics and other doctor’s offices are seeing an uptick in hay fever related visits. But before you build a bunker or hunt down all vegetation that produces pollen, there are ways to reduce your symptoms and suffering.
Your Allergy Defense Plan
1. Allergy-proof your home. Sadly, you can’t stop Mother Nature. But you do have some control of your indoor environment. Keep your windows shut when the pollen count in the air is high. You can check this by staying update with the allergy forecast on the weather channel or via apps like Weather Underground. To keep cool, use the air conditioner instead. Whenever you’re outdoors, pollen settles on your cloths or get’s trapped in your hair so if you can, change your clothes are often as you can – ideally, as soon as you get in the house – and take a shower. This limits the spread of pollen to other parts of your house.
2. Probiotics. You’re probably familiar with these healthy bacteria that live in your digestive tract. While some conflicting reports exist, there are some studies that show probiotics might reduce allergy related symptoms such as congestion and runny nose. You can also pop a probiotic supplement or naturally from yogurt or kefir, a milk based drink.
3. HEPA Filters. Even though the jury is largely still out on the effectiveness of HEPA filters in reducing allergy symptoms, it’s still a wise investment to get one.
This is because far more allergens like pollen or dust mites rest on surfaces of furniture and clothing than float in the air. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is a god idea too. Unlike regular vacuums that tend to blow allergens back into the air, HEPA certified vacuums do a more effective job at preventing that so you can breath easier.
4. Wear a NIOSH-rates 95 filter mask. Chances are, you have outdoor chores like mowing the lawn, tending to your garden or raking leaves.
Wearing a pollen mask and glasses/ goggles will help minimize your pollen exposure. It’s also best to take appropriate allergy relieving medication beforehand.
5. Allergic rhinitis, a swelling in your nasal cavity, is mostly caused by airborne allergens. If you have forced air vents in your room, close them to reduce airborne allergens like pet dander. Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis. These medications come in oral, nasal or syrup or eye drops. They function by interfering with the effects of histamine, the irritating chemical released in your body in response to an allergic particle. They come as over the counter (OTC) or prescription (Rx) medications. There are other chemicals involved that can cause these symptoms, however histamine remains the main culprit. Antihistamines relieve nasal allergy symptoms like:
- Itchy skin, eczema and hives
- Burning, teary, red and itchy eyes
- Runny nose, sneezing and itchy nose
Decongestants also help clear a stuffy nasal cavity by constricting the blood vessels in your nose, reducing stuffiness and the over production of mucus.
6. Rinse your sinuses with saline solution. Saline solution contains no medicine and is made by mixing sterile, distilled water with salt. This method is sometimes called nasal irrigation. Rinsing in such a manner is a quick, inexpensive way to relieve nasal congestion. It flushes out mucus and allergens out of your nose. Look for a neti-pot in your local pharmacy or supermarket aisles. It has a small spout that’s designed for nasal irrigation.
7. Cut down on alcohol. Allergy sufferers, this author included, need to be aware that beer, wine, liquor contain histamine. It’s produced a by-product of the reaction of yeast and bacteria during the fermentation process. So if you’re typically an allergy sufferer whose body produces way too much histamine, you may want to avoid fermented alcohol altogether (especially during allergy season). In a Swedish study from 2005, red and white wines were the most frequent triggers, for unknown reasons, women were twice as likely as men to be affected. So if you can, take a rain check on the alcohol. At least give it a shot.
8. Eat allergy-fighting foods. Certain foods like beetroots, berries, cherries and red grapes (red wine doesn’t count- see above) contain anthocyanin compound. This compound is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent which helps fight off allergies. Other allergy fighting foods to know are: turmeric, lemons, onions, mango (vitamin-C), garlic (flavonoids) and walnuts (Omega-3).
9. Keep fido or fluffy off of furniture and out of the bedroom. Even with a hypoallergenic pet, if your four-legged friend has been outdoors, they may carry pollen into your room and around your home. The plan is to minimize your exposure to pollen. Giving your pets a weekly bath using an appropriate shampoo designed to reduce pet dander.
10. See an allergist. These specialists can run tests to identify your allergy triggers, if you haven’t already. They can also offer modifications and other suggestions you can use to reduce your symptoms. These may include using OTC or Rx medications of trying homeopathic therapies like acupuncture or hypnosis. If your allergies are bothersome and nothing seems to help, you may need additional treatment.