As my grape hyacinths push toward the sun, I know that I’ll soon be seeing my patients who have seasonal allergies–this pattern is quite predictable. This week, I’ve been seeing people with itching eyes, stuffed-up noses, sneezing, and dark circles under their eyes. Here are some tips if allergies usually make you feel miserable in the spring.
Start your medications early in the season
If you know you have seasonal allergies, try to start your medicines about 1 month before the beginning of spring. This way, when the grass, trees, and pollen are in full bloom, you will be protected against the most severe symptoms. This strategy works well but I find that it’s difficult for my patients to remember to do this. If it’s going to be a while before you can get an appointment to see your doctor, buy an over-the-counter (OTC) drug. There are many effective OTC medications available without a prescription.
Avoid exposures to allergens
I take a common-sense approach. If you’re allergic to grass, get someone else to mow the lawn. If you wake up in the morning and your symptoms are active, it’s likely that the pollen count or your particular allergen count is elevated. I would stay inside with the windows closed and, if possible, turn on the air conditioning. If you must go outside, you might find it helpful to rinse your eyes and nose with saline solution after your outing.
Know Your Allergy Trigger Points
When our immune systems are in a sensitive state, an environmental substance that is normally harmless can cause an inflammatory reaction in our bodies. This reaction is caused by an allergen, and each person’s body may react differently to various allergens. Allergies can vary from mild hay fever to severe environmental, dietary, or medication-related allergies. If you know which allergens trigger a response in you, take care to avoid them. However, if you are not sure what may be causing your stuffy nose and itchy eyes, watch out for these common triggers and try these remedies to remove them.
Trigger Point #1: Weak Immune System
Our immune system protects us from disease, infection, and illness. Various invaders trigger immune responses and produce antibodies, which are proteins that defend the body. Gradually, our body builds memory of which antibodies to use for each kind of invader, thereby protecting us. Certain nutrients play a key role in immune defense, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, and zinc. You will want to make sure you are getting enough of these nutrients to keep your immune system strong and able to ward off inflammatory reactions.
Bolster Immunity with Nutrient-Rich Foods
Up your intake of immune-supportive nutrients by eating plenty of the following foods (if you are not allergic to them): sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds, papayas, strawberries, citrus fruits, broccoli, spelt, and oats. Garlic is also known to have antibacterial and antiviral properties that may protect you against some allergens—and also Count Dracula! Go for organics whenever possible to avoid allergy-triggering synthetic pesticides and other harmful substances.
Immunity Recipe: Sensational Seasonal Smoothie
This delicious and nutrient-rich smoothie will keep your immune system strong to help it nip those allergies in the bud!
- Handful of kale
- 1 medium-szied bell pepper
- 1 cup strawberries
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 banana
- 4 to 5 oz water
Blend all ingredients well until smooth. Enjoy!
Trigger Point #2: Environmental Considerations
Studies show that individuals living in urban and more industrialized areas are more likely to suffer from allergies than those that live in more rural populations. No matter where you live, however, maintaining a clean environment should be a priority. It is important to frequently clean your home of dust, pollen, mold, mildew, and dander. Most household cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that may trigger an allergy or exacerbate an existing one. Luckily, natural, safe, and chemical-free products can be ordered online—or even made at home! Keep in mind, certain perfumes, lotions, makeup, body lotions, and hair products contain allergens, so make sure to steer clear of them. In the meantime, try these simple DIY recipes you can make to clean your living space, without the allergic reaction.
Surface Cleaner Recipe
Combine vinegar and salt in equal parts. Simply sponge onto surfaces to clean them and then wipe off with water.
Take your medications on a schedule
Follow all instructions on your medications exactly. If a prescription’s instructions say “3 times a day,” take it 3 times a day. Taking a little here and a little there is less likely to reduce your symptoms.
Ask your physician to prescribe a drug–and request a generic
There are many prescription drugs that treat seasonal allergies. Some drugs work quickly, while others take time to work. The classes of drugs used include:
- nasal glucocorticoids
- mast cell stabilizers
- leukotriene receptor blockers
Ask your doctor for a generic drug; it will save you money.