Spring is here. The days are warm, the grass is green, and new life is everywhere. Longer spring days mean more time to bask in nature’s glory.
Though you may enjoy the season, if you’re one of the 20 million Americans afflicted by seasonal allergies, spring can be an uncomfortable time, to say the least.
As blossoming trees release pollen into the air, springtime breezes spread it everywhere. For allergy sufferers, that means symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing, and sinusitis. If you are struggling to keep your allergy symptoms at bay, don’t fret.
Experts share their top hacks to avoid spring allergies this season.
Keep the Windows Closed
Trees and grasses release a large amount of pollen during spring and summer. Higher pollen counts will worsen your allergies, says Niha Qamar, MD, a Hicksville, New York physician board certified in allergy and immunology and internal medicine.
“During high pollen count days, keep the windows closed so that the air inside your home stays clear of the lingering pollen outside, says Dr. Qamar, also the author of What? I Could be Allergic to That?!
Invest in a Humidifier
To increase moisture in the air and avoid excessive skin, nose, and throat dryness, run a humidifier at night and during the day when needed, says Shirin Peters, MD, a primary care physician and founder of Bethany Medical Clinic in New York, NY. “Be sure to clean and change your humidifier filters regularly to avoid adding any bacteria into the air,” Dr. Peters says.
Manage Symptoms with Antihistamines and Decongestants
Depending on what you’re allergic to, you can take two types of non-drowsy allergy medications: non-sedating antihistamines and/or medications containing a decongestant, says Mahmud Kara, MD, an internal medicine specialist and creator of KaraMD.
Antihistamines work by blocking histamines, which is a chemical released by the body naturally when it detects something harmful –histamines trigger an immune system response of swelling and inflammation, which leads to the uncomfortable symptoms those with allergies experience, explains Dr. Kara.
“Decongestants work by constricting the blood vessels in the nasal passageways. This reduces the amount of liquid/fluid that is generally irritating the nasal cavity and causing inflammation and uncomfortable symptoms,” Dr. Kara says.
Wash Your Clothes and Bedding in Hot Water
Pollen and dust particles can quickly get on you and in your home from outdoor exposure, says Mark Davis, MD, a physician with Pacific Analytics. Wash your clothes and bedding with hot water, which is most effective in removing destroying dust and pollen, helping you avoid allergies in the first place, Dr. Davis says.
Try to Stay Indoors in the Morning
The pollen count is highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. each morning, so try to stay inside during these hours, says Dr. Davis. And if your allergies are severe, avoid going out on dry and windy days.
Invest in an Air Purifier
Dr. Davis says that sleeping with an air purifier in your bedroom will protect you against common household allergens. He says that histamine levels are at their peak during the night, which can aggravate allergy symptoms and make it difficult to sleep. “Air purifiers with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are recommended since they are able to filter even the smallest size pollutants,” Dr. Davis says.
Keep the Air Conditioning On
According to Dr. Qamar, if you’re allergic to outdoor pollen or mold, use your air conditioning. This way, the air inside your home will stay clean and allergen-free – just be sure to change or clean the filters every month.
Keep Your Pets Away from Your Bedroom
Hard as it may be to give Fido the boot, do not let your pets come into your bedroom at night, says Dr. Davis. He says a pet’s hair and dander can cause severe allergic reactions. For even more protection, it’s a good idea to vacuum your carpet and upholstery daily, adds Dr. Peters.
Try a Nasal Saline Rinse
Neti pots and sinus rinses work very well and are entirely natural, says Dr. Qamar. She recommends using distilled water (or boiled water that has cooled down) with a salt packet to rinse your sinuses as many times as needed.
“This will [flush out] the mucus build up and make you feel a lot clearer. I would use this first before any medicated nasal sprays; otherwise, you’ll wash out the medication,” Dr. Qamar says.
Use Nasal Sprays to Manage Symptoms
Nasal sprays for allergies can be decongestants or steroids, says Dr. Kara. Decongestant nasal sprays target the mucus/fluid causing inflammation and allergy symptoms, while steroid nasal sprays work to reduce inflammation and swelling, Dr. Kara says.
“Recent research has suggested that nasal sprays may work to alleviate symptoms at a faster rate and for a longer period of time than oral medications,” Dr. Kara says, and steroid nasal sprays are a better option than decongestant nasal spray options.
Allergy-proof Your Diet
Dr. Davis says that there are important dietary changes that people can make to manage allergies. These include:
- Drink green tea in the morning: It contains natural antihistamines that are very helpful for easing the severity of allergic reactions.
- Avoid eating foods with lots of spices: Spicy foods can exacerbate allergy symptoms, such as runny nose and eyes; hence, it is better to avoid them during an allergic reaction.
- Eat plenty of citrus foods: Lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits contain significant amounts of bromelain, a chemical that helps relieve asthma and other allergy symptoms.
- Add onions, berries, peppers, and apples to your meals: These foods contain a natural chemical called quercetin that effectively decreases the body’s reaction to histamine and allergic reactions.
- Add spirulina to your daily diet: One teaspoon of spirulina per day is enough to hinder histamine release responsible for triggering allergic reactions. It also improves sneezing, nasal discharge, itching, and nasal congestion.
Treat Allergy Symptoms Holistically
Kira Capozzolo, DC, a chiropractor at Twin Waves Wellness Center in Solana Beach, CA, swears by the herb perilla to reduce seasonal sniffles. A member of the mint family, perilla (also known as Chinese basil) contains high levels of rosmarinic acid, which has anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory components.
See an Allergist for Immunotherapy
Consider going to an allergy specialist and starting allergy shots if your allergies are unbearable every year, says Dr. Qamar. Allergen immunotherapy builds up your immunity and potentially cures your allergies, she says, and it’s a great option if medications aren’t working for you. Although immunotherapy requires a commitment (a year of weekly shots followed by 2- years of monthly shots), Dr. Qamar says it has an excellent success rate.
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