Spring’s arrival is a mixed blessing for those who suffer from seasonal allergies. All that itchiness and wheezy sniffling can be enough to make a body long for the days of tightly zipped parkas and icy wind chills, when airborne allergens were still nice and frozen.
The biggest cause of springtime allergies is pollen, a powdery substance emitted by trees, grasses and weeds for the purpose of reproduction (the birds and the bees aren’t the only ones stirred up come spring). When inhaled, pollen triggers the allergic person’s immune system to dispatch antibodies that go crazy trying to attack the foreign bodies, resulting in watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing and general facial misery. Here are some ways to put spring in your step – and keep it out of your sinuses.
Family medicine physician Dr. Kevin Ronneberg says that avoiding exposure to allergens is the best way to avoid allergic reactions. He offers the following tips:
- Know when pollen counts are high by checking an online pollen tracker, such as pollen.com.
- Stay indoors when counts are high and keep your windows closed if possible.
- Keep your furnace filter clean.
- Add a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter to help remove circulating allergens.
- Reschedule workouts and errands for later in the day when pollen counts are lower.
- Use your car’s air recirculation option while driving.
- Use sunglasses to decrease allergen exposure to your eyes, and consider a mask over your nose and mouth on high-pollen count and windy days during allergy season.
Those interested in bolstering their bodies’ natural ability to cope with allergens can look to these tips from Dr. Liz Orchard, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in holistic health care:
- If there are certain foods that tend to cause inflammation for you, avoid them before springtime allergens start to bloom.
- Add vegetables and cold-water fish like salmon or mackarel, to your diet. Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties, and Vitamin C and Quercetin (a flavonoid found in cabbage, spinach, garlic, grapefruit, apples, cranberries, kale, pears, grapes and onions) are thought to act as natural antihistamines that may help reduce allergy symptoms.
- Take a supplement that contains both Vitamin C and Quercetin about an hour before being exposed to allergens.
- Wash your hair (which collects pollen throughout the day) before bed.
- Wash sheets and pillow cases in hot water a few times a week.
Allergy sufferers with persistent symptoms that don’t respond well to these methods or over-the-counter allergy medications might consider seeing an allergist for testing and treatment to help manage symptoms. But even those who use the big guns of prescription medication or shots would do well to stay vigilant against encroaching allergens with regular and thorough “spring cleaning” of the diet, home and body as well. And then it’s clear skies ahead … at least until fall.
To find out where your city ranks for spring allergies. check out the
Huffington Post's list of allergy hotspots.