Allergy season is upon us, and it ain’t pretty. Coughing, sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, headaches, chest tightness… the list of symptoms goes on and on. You can even tell that certain people suffer from this condition by the presence of “allergic shiners”, which are dark circles that appear under the eyes due to nasal and sinus congestion. Allergies happen when your immune system is being a drama queen by majorly overreacting to a normal substance. Your body labels an innocent substance as an invader. This causes your immune system to produce a protein called IgE, which then causes your body’s cells to release histamine. Histamine leads to inflammation and itchiness, which explains all those nasty symptoms. Seasonal allergies in particular are an allergic response to plant pollen, which has particles light enough to travel through wind, especially in dry, warm weather.
There are 3 main pollen types that people are commonly allergic to:
Season starts: late March or early April
Season ends: mid-June
Examples: Maple, birch, alder
Season starts: end of May
Season ends: early July
Season starts: mid-August
Season ends: early October
Here’s the thing about seasonal allergies: there’s no cure. All we can do is try to prevent reactions and manage symptoms. And it’s important that we do that, not only because the symptoms are unpleasant, but also because recurrent allergies can increase the risk of other conditions, such as asthma, eczema, sinusitis, and lung and ear infections. Here are a few tips to get you on your way.
1. Monitor daily pollen counts
Weather channels obviously monitor things like temperature, humidity, and wind, but did you know that they also keep track of pollen counts? If you go to the Weather Network website and choose “Pollen” under the “Forecasts and Reports” menu, it will bring up the pollen counts for your area. It shows you the 3-day pollen outlook for the plants with the highest counts so you can plan your outdoor activities accordingly.
2. Close your windows
Once the spring weather starts to hit, it tempts us to open our screen doors and windows to let the fresh air in. But when we do that, we are also letting allergenic pollens into our home. Try to keep your windows closed if you can, and this goes for your car too!
3. Wash your linens
If you have opened your windows and doors, it’s possible that pollen entered your home and settled on your linens. Be sure to wash your sheets, duvets, and pillows (the actual pillow, not just the case) to remove any allergens that might be on them.
4. Rethink your furniture and flooring
Pollen particles that enter your home can settle into furniture that is porous in nature. Try choosing furniture that is made from materials that are easier to clean, such as wood, leather and vinyl. Rooms that are wall-to- wall carpet can be really difficult for people with allergies, since it’s a perfect place for allergens to settle into. If you really want the cozy look that carpeting provides, try using rugs instead and washing them regularly. If you do have carpet then at least make sure you are vacuuming it as often as possible!
5. Restructure your shower schedule
After being outside, pollen can actually settle into your skin and hair. This can cause allergy symptoms to continue once you’re back indoors. Showering helps to remove pollen from the exterior of your body, so try to shower after you’ve been outside if you can!
6. Get your Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, so make sure you are getting enough of them by eating flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, sardines, cod, mackerel, herring, whitefish, anchovies, and salmon. There are also lots of supplements out there, so ask your naturopathic doctor about these if you want a more concentrated source of omega-3s.
7. Have some probiotics
Probiotics have been clinically proven to reduce the severity of seasonal allergy symptoms. They also decrease the need for allergy medications. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. There are also lots of great probiotic supplements that you can ask your naturopathic doctor about.
8. Take quercetin
Quercetin is a substance that helps to decrease the frequency and severity of symptoms. It’s found in foods like swiss chard, capers, dill, and cilantro, but for the best effect it’s taken in supplement form. See your naturopathic doctor about a quercetin supplement that’s right for you. It’s also important to take Vitamin C with your quercetin, because although both of these substances can be helpful with allergies, their effects are greatly increased when taken together.
9. Eat more pineapple
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is anti-inflammatory. It also contains Vitamin C, and remember how helpful that is with our other anti-allergy friend quercetin? There does appear to be an association between pollen allergies and an allergy to pineapple though, so obviously make sure you’re not allergic to it before you chow down on this delicious fruit!
10. Try butterbur
Studies have demonstrated that taking butterbur causes less histamine to be released when exposed to pollens. A common problem for people with seasonal allergies is that when they stop taking their pharmaceutical antihistamines, their symptoms come back more often and more severely. Research has shown that Cetirizine (the active ingredient in Reactine) has the same effect as butterbur in terms of controlling symptoms. However, butterbur had the additional benefit of no rebound symptoms.
Overall, it’s important that you avoid pollens by keeping doors and windows closed, and washing any surfaces where pollen may have settled. Shutting yourself indoors for the entire allergy season isn’t realistic, so keep track of pollen counts for your area and plan your outdoor activities around the forecast. Eating a wide variety of foods with a focus on the anti-inflammatory ones mentioned above can be very helpful. And if you really want to knock those seasonal allergies out of the park, see your naturopathic doctor about possible supplementation. If you or someone you know is interested in seeking treatment for seasonal allergies, book a visit with Corina Kibsey, ND today.
Image courtesy of: Tim Mossholder