by Kimberly Allen, RN
Finally, spring is really starting to show life it’s a great time to take long walks watching the leaves begin to fill the tree’s and the wild flowers beginning to bloom. Sounds great after a long cold winter doesn’t it? For many yes, but for over 35 million Americans not so much. For the over 35 million Americans that suffer from various allergies associated with spring, it’s more a time of suffering than one of relief from winter.
Today there are many more options available to help relieve spring allergy symptoms both over the counter and by prescription. However, many allergy sufferer’s don’t want to keep putting these “drugs” in their bodies and are looking for alternative ways to manage their symptoms. According to experts one of the first things allergy sufferers need to do is change their thought process from treatment to prevention. First, determine what triggers your allergy symptoms. Triggers vary from person to person as well as in different areas. Pollen is the most common trigger, however there are several different types of pollen, you may be allergic to all or only one. The best way to determine exactly what triggers your allergy symptoms is to have an allergy test.
Once you’ve determined what triggers your allergy symptoms you need to avoid them. For many that may mean rearranging your schedule. Pollen and mold spore counts are highest in the morning between 5 and 10 AM. So if you normally run, walk, or work in the garden during those hours, which many do to take advantage of the cooler temperatures, it would be better for your allergies if you did these activities in the evening. If it’s possible, have someone else cut the grass and do the weeding. If not, wear a dust mask and glasses as well as a long sleeve shirt and pants to prevent pollen from sticking to your skin or getting in your eyes and nose. It’s also a good idea to either avoid or limit your time outdoors on dry windy days. A nice spring rain clears the air of pollen so after the rain is the best time to go outside. However, on the other hand, a severe thunderstorm can worsen the pollen count..
Not only can pollen travel for miles it sticks to everything. Your hair, skin, and clothes then when you go inside the pollen goes with you and sticks to your furniture and anything else in your home including the walls. Then you’re exposed both inside and out making the symptoms more miserable. The best way to avoid getting pollen in your house is to keep your windows and doors closed, especially when pollen counts are high. It’s also helpful to remove your outer clothes before entering your house and then shower to get the pollen out of your hair and off your skin.
Another thing that many people don’t think about as far as prevention of allergy symptoms is diet. First of all eating a healthy, well balanced diet strengthens your immune system which in turn improves your overall resistance to allergy symptoms. A diet high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants has been shown to significantly improve your resistance to allergies. Many experts also believe that including more organic foods in your diet can also significantly improve your resistance to allergies. Researchers also say that using a good quality allergy free cover on your bed, both box spring and mattress, as well as all pillows and washing all your bedding once a wk will significantly reduce dust mites and improve allergy symptoms. And do not hang your laundry outside . I know, I love the fresh air smell too, but if you suffer from allergies hanging your laundry outside brings the allergens in.
Spring is also the time many Americans perform the traditional “spring cleaning”. The traditional cleaning products on the store shelves today are loaded with chemicals and overwhelming fumes that have been known to trigger allergies. Using organic cleaning products that do not contain these harsh chemicals or their fumes can help prevent your allergy symptoms from developing.
Another thing that’s very helpful is to wash your nasal passages and sinuses with a saline solution to remove the pollens that have settled in. The best way to do this is with a squeeze bottle or a neti pot.
For those that are unable to prevent all their symptoms there are several natural and herbal remedies available to help relieve your symptoms if you are trying to avoid the conventional allergy medications.
Natural allergy medicines
Allergies can make life miserable for many and more and more people are seeking herbal and natural treatments for their symptoms instead of the conventional treatments currently available. Many allergy sufferers are getting relief from their symptoms by using certain herbs either as teas or capsules as well as putting them in their food. There are also a variety of foods that when incorporated into your diet can relieve your allergy symptoms.
Most of the people that I know with allergies will tell you that even though they practice prevention when it comes to their allergies they still experience some symptoms. They say they’re milder than before actively practicing prevention but they’re still annoying. And like so many others they started looking for herbal remedies. One of the most common used is vitamin C, it is a natural antihistamine. Histamine is the chemical that is released in your body triggering your allergy symptoms. Flavanoids, especially quercitin, as well as hesperidin and rutin also have antihistamine capabilities and they work well especially when combined with vitamin C. These flavanoids can be found in a variety of foods ranging from berries and citrus fruit to broccoli and spinach. Another commonly used plant is stinging nettle. However, it’s important to use extracts made from the leaves, not the root. Angelica has compounds that prevent the production of certain antibodies called lgE that your body produces in response to allergy triggers.
There have been studies that show licorice has the ability to reduce the inflammation that is the cause of many allergy symptoms. Licorice has the ability to enhance your body’s cortisol making it last longer therefore reducing inflammation without side effects. Local raw honey, not the honey you get at your local super market, not only has the ability to reduce your allergy symptoms it has the potential to get rid of them. By taking a spoonful of local honey daily your body is able to build a tolerance to the plant that causes your allergy symptoms. Local raw honey contains pollen from several plants and therefore can provide a wide spectrum of coverage. Many experts suggest adding a tablespoon of raw organic apple cider vinegar to a cup of warm water with a spoon of raw local honey every morning before going outside. This homemade tonic is also a powerful boost for your immune system.
There are also several essential oils like lavender, peppermint, lemongrass and eucalyptus that when added to your humidifier or cold air diffuser are great for relieving allergy symptoms.
There are also a variety of foods that have when incorporated into your diet can reduce the inflammation causing your symptoms. Food high in anthocyanins like berries, beets and cherries as well as dark purple and red grapes can improve your symptoms. Adding some fresh or dried tumeric to your homemade soups and stews as well as salad dressing provides you with an anti-inflammatory effect.
The phytonutrients hesperitin and hesperidin have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory as well as anti carcinogenic and cholesterol lowering properties in addition to it’s antihistamine properties making it a powerful nutrient to include in your diet. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges have the higher concentration of these nutrients, but they can also be found in significant amounts in green vegetables.
There are also several allergy remedies made of a blend of biotanicals. One of the most common is Sinupret that has been used in Europe for many years. Sinupret is a combination of cowslip, gentian root, sorrel and verbena as well as European elderflower. It has also been shown to relieve and treat symptoms of acute sinusitis and bronchitis.
There are a wide variety of herbs people use to treat their allergy symptoms, most can be found at your local health food store. For a larger variety of medicinal herbs there are numerous on line stores that have almost any medicinal herb that you’re looking for. It’s important to remember supplements are not regulated by the FDA so research the herb and the store to be sure you’re getting a quality product. Also, if you have other existing medical conditions it’s important to consult your doctor before starting any supplement therapy.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.