3 Tips for the Sneezing Season

Spring is finally here, bringing with it flowers, green grass, sunshine…and hay fever.

Allergies have been a familiar friend foe of mine since birth. My childhood was littered with countless respiratory infections and antibiotics. The repeated offender? I had both severe indoor and outdoor allergies. I mean, just my dust allergy alone tested at a whopping 9,000%. For real. It’s a thing.

Darn you, allergies.

After battling colds all winter long, the last thing you want is more sniffles and runny noses. When your allergies get the best of you, don’t give up hope on breathing just yet. Your visions of gardening and romantic walks in the park don’t have to end with a puffy face. You can still enjoy spring and summer without always feeling like your head will explode.

There are many options available for allergy sufferers today, from medications like Zyrtec, Claritin, and Benedryl to small doses of the allergen given in drops or injections. But sometimes these just don’t do the trick. Even with medication, my allergies persisted and left me dealing with a host of negative side effects while still feeling miserable.

When medication doesn’t cut it, here are a few surprising (or not so surprising) natural alternatives to relieve allergy symptoms. I was shocked to discover how well these worked and how great I felt. Last year was the first year I could remember that I didn’t get sick! For the severe sufferer, these are definitely worth a try and work best when combined together. But first, a little background on how allergies work:

Allergy 101

If you have seasonal allergies, the pollen you breathe during the spring and summer months triggers an immune response in your body. When your body encounters the pollen (tree, grass, or ragweed), it treats it as a foreign enemy and rallies the troops for battle. The fight triggers a histamine inflammatory response, causing symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, sinus congestion, itchy mouth, hives, and scratchy throat commonly known as hay fever.

Surprising Tip #1: Check Your Diet

Healthy food is always good for you, right? Wrong. I was shocked to discover Oral Allergy Syndrome and surprised by how little attention it gets.

Pollen is not the only thing that can trigger your hay fever. Did you know that what you eat can actually make your seasonal allergies worse? We’re not talking food allergies here. During the allergy season, there are certain foods with proteins so similar to the protein structure of pollen that your immune system mistakes it for the pollen itself. Confused and on the defense, it sends out false alarms and causes the same histamine reaction. Continuing to eat a lot of these foods will contribute to the inflammation and hay fever your body is experiencing. Immunity at its finest.

The easy fix? Avoid the cross-reaction foods during your allergy season and you will be surprised how much better you feel!

Season Pollen Foods to Avoid
Feb – May Tree   Apple, Apricot, Carrot, Celery, Hazelnut, Kiwi, Parsley, Peach,     Peanut, Pear, Potato
Apr – Oct Grass   Kiwi, Melon, Tomato, Watermelon, Wheat, Grains, Corn, Millet,     Sugarcane, Sorghum
July – Nov Ragweed   Banana, Cucumber, Lettuce, Melons, Watermelon, Milk, Carrot,     Celery, Coriander

You don’t have to eliminate these foods forever, just while the pollen is in season.

A Spoonful of Honey: There is also the theory that eating a spoonful of local honey every day during your allergy season can help with symptoms.  The idea is that raw local honey works like a vaccine, introducing small doses of pollen into your system creating immune exposure without the histamine reaction. Over time, as your body creates antibodies to the pollen, it will decrease your overall symptom reaction during allergy season and build up a tolerance to it. While this theory seems to work, those with severe allergies can react to even the smallest doses. For those with severe reactions, I wouldn’t suggest exposing yourself to continued inflammation if your body doesn’t tolerate it well.

Chicken Noodle Soup, Garlic, Pineapple, & Omega 3’s: What do these things have in common? All of them have anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe your allergy symptoms. Garlic not only boosts the immune system but is also a source of quercetin which is a natural antihistamine. Omega 3’s like fish, walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseed can help calm the inflammation caused by hay fever.

Surprising Tip #2: Keep it Outside

This might be a no-brainer but it is surprising how well it works. If you’re allergic to what’s outside, you definitely don’t want to bring that pollen inside and be exposed to it all day long. Here are a few easy tricks to creating a safe haven indoors:

Shower After Exposure: Last summer my husband and I made a rule that if we spent any time outside that we would shower and change our clothes when we came inside. A little inconvenient but we were surprised by how well this worked! When you’re outside, pollen sticks to your clothes, skin, and hair. Once inside, you transfer it to the couch, the carpet, the bed, etc. When you sleep, the pollen from your hair and skin gets into your sheets, your pillow, and you breathe it in all night long. No wonder you wake up miserable! But if you shower first, you wash off the pollen and save yourself the trouble.

Shoes Off: Avoid tracking the pollen throughout the entire house by leaving your shoes at the door or even in the garage.

Keep Windows Closed: Fresh air is always nice but not if it carries the pesky pollen in with it. Cool yourself with the air conditioner and leave the pollen outside where it belongs (this goes for car rides too)!

Surprising Tip #3: Timing is Everything

Pollen actually has a high and low time of day. If you suffer from allergies, the best times to be outdoors is early morning, late evening, and after a rainfall. Rain washes all the pollen out of the air. Most pollen will peak around noon and in the afternoon, so try to limit your exposure during this time.

Choose the mornings or evenings to work in the yard, exercise, or go for walks. Wear a mask when you are gardening or landscaping. It’s not the most fashionable but hey, it works. Protecting your nose and mouth when you are up close and personal with nature will help limit your exposure and hay fever. And let’s be honest, mowing the lawn is more enjoyable when you can breathe.

If you do go outside, try a gentle saline spray at night before bed. This is a natural way to clean out the pollen that has gotten trapped in your nose without the use of steroids or chemicals. Ocean Saline Nasal Spray is a quality brand that you can easily find at your local drug store.

Give these tips a try in the upcoming months. You may be pleasantly surprised how well they work and how much better you feel.

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