Hello March… hello Spring… hello allergies! Seasonal allergies are common to those with “allergies” this time of year. Whatever the cause of your specific allergies (known as allergens), they are all the result of an over-reaction by your immune system to some specific allergen. Allergies are nearly always miserable, but they can also be dangerous—anaphylactic reactions require emergency medical intervention, for example, and can result in death.
Allergic rhinitis includes seasonal allergies—sometimes commonly called hay fever. Allergic rhinitis tends to be a miserable experience, but is only rarely dangerous. Allergic rhinitis can occur year -round, especially if the allergen involved is dust mites, pet dander, pet hair or mold. The symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Watery and itchy eyes
- Itchy mouth, eyes and throat
Fatigue that is often due to lack of sleep (because of stuffy or runny noses). Children often have darkened “allergy circles” under their eyes—adults can as well. These are due to swollen capillaries that show up under the thin skin found under the eyes, not necessarily because the person is tired.
One approach that may be helpful to those with allergic rhinitis and seasonal allergies is to balance the immune system—this can be accomplished in a number of ways, but essentially, the idea is to try and support the immune system in hope that it doesn’t over-react to the allergen.
Cutting Down on Allergens in Your Home
Allergic rhinitis is treated often by avoiding the triggers. However, this is often easier said than done!
For example, you can keep your doors and windows shut during pollen season, and especially avoid the times of high pollen count (from the early morning until about mid-day). Here are some other steps you can take to reduce allergens:
Dust carries many allergens. Use a damp cloth or a vacuum to collect dust—other dusting methods sometimes just move the dust around. If you are sensitive, wear a dust mask while dusting
Use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter that can trap very small particles. Vacuum as often as feasible, but at least 1-2 times a week.
Use “green” or natural cleaning products in your home. This can reduce the number of chemicals you and your family you are exposed to.
Pet dander and fur can be a problem for many. Try to bathe and groom your pets often to reduce the amount of “flying fur”. You might also want to consider some pet-free zones such as your bedroom or living room.
Watch for areas where mold and mildew thrive. Mold and mildew grows best in warm and wet areas—like indoor-outdoor carpets and especially in the bathroom/shower areas. You can make certain to clean off any mold and mildew and run a dehumidifier to reduce moisture.
Use traps to catch pests—both the four-legged kind (mice, shrews etc) and the six-legged kind (cockroaches, ants etc). These pests leave droppings, various proteins and other substances that can trigger allergies.
Supporting the Immune System to Combat Allergies
Many people run to their medicine cabinet when allergies strike. That is not the only approach available to you, however! There are a number of alternatives to that medicine cabinet—your refrigerator for one!
There are foods that can help reduce inflammation—one of the underlying causes of the miserable symptoms of allergies.
Anti-inflammatory foods to include:
Vegetables, which contain vitamins, minerals and various substances that can reduce inflammation. Make sure you include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Red, orange or yellow vegetables
Onions and garlic and spices such as ginger, cayenne pepper and horseradish—since these spices can actually cause watery eyes and some of the similar symptoms of allergies, these appear to act as “counter-irritants” to the actual allergens
Nettle teas have long been used to treat allergic reactions—nettles may also be acting as a counter-irritant.
Avoid the following foods—these foods can make the allergic symptoms worse by increasing inflammation
- Dairy products
- Wheat products
- Processed foods with any additives, added food colorings or preservatives
- Red meats
- Bananas and citrus fruit
There are many supplements that may be helpful to reducing allergy symptoms. These include:
Bioflavonoids such as quercitin, rutin, catechin and hesperidin
Essential fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acids
Probiotics that can populate your gut with healthy, immune-boosting and regulating bacteria
Vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, D, C, E and minerals such as zinc and selenium
We all make decisions every day that affect our health. One decision may not seem that important, but they all add up to make a big difference. Small daily GOOD decisions include increasing the amount of water you drink, getting the proper amount of sleep, rest and relaxation, eating plenty of vegetables and fruit as well as getting some exercise every day, These choices empower you AND your health. Ultimately, YOU have the power to transform your health, one healthy choice at a time!