If you were unlucky enough to experience the flu this past season, you know that this flu season was a particularly bad one, with the illness coming down harder than a nun teaching math (I can vouch for that) as well as the spread of the N1H2 flu and the norovirus “super bug”. With flu season winding down officially on March 31st, though, the threat of intestinal discomfort, diarrhea, and throwing your guts up gets replaced with seasonal spring allergies– which, depending on your sensitivity and environment, might be just as bad. However, those alone aren’t to blame for your itchy eyes, sneezing, runny noses, and other nuisances: your body’s reaction to an increased level of airborne pollen is a release of histamine, which is what causes all those symptoms. Since that’s not easily eliminated (unless you want to suppress histamine with sleep-inducting diphenhydramine), your best solution is to control where you place yourself and prepare your body for what’s to come.
So what are the main triggers for seasonal allergies?
Changing weather and blooming plants create a ripe environment for gorgeous multicolored landscapes– and really awful sneezing. Since you can’t control your world, you can at least control where you go in it with a few helpful facts to keep in mind:
- Wind and warmer weather increase the amount of pollen in the air.
- Mold hearts increased humidity and heat.
- The days following rain often have an increased pollen count.
- Mornings tend to have the highest pollent counts compared to the rest of the day.
- Click here for a list of trees and plants you’ll want to avoid to inhibit spring allergies.
Being prepared also means being knowledgable about the air around your destination. Check out the National Allergy Bureau’s Pollen Counts for pollen and mold counts by state or region, or download the NAB’s app to get the latest counts on your phone. And remember to:
- Try to avoid going outdoors on days with high pollen counts.
- If you must, though, be sure to wash your hair after returning home (it can actually store pollen!).
- Keep windows and doors closed to prevent allergens being swept in on breezes.
Should you decide to skip the airborne agitation outside, the air inside your home might still harbor the type of comfort that dust, bugs, and pollen are just attracted to. Of course, it all begins with cleaning, so let out your annoyed sigh now and read on:
- Change air filters in your home every three months and consider getting an air purifier.
- Dust in areas where allergens flock to, like shelves and vents.
- Vacuum twice a week with a vacuum with a HEPA filter; regular cleaning machines will just blow allergens back out and into the air.
- Wash your and your pet’s bedding once a week in hot water.
- Here’s a non-cleaning tip: stock up on antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal rinses like a Neti Pot, which use a saline solution to clean out the sinuses.
In addition to your environment, your intake can also have an effect on how your body tackles spring allergies:
- Some vegetables like kale and broccoli are members of the crucifer family, making them fighters of stuffed sinuses.
- Onions, garlic, and parsley help to naturally inhibit histamine.
- Consider taking vitamin D supplements to assist your immune system.
- Increase your vitamin C intake as well with citrus fruits.
- Some plants like stinging nettle and butterbar can alleviate some of the symptoms of spring allergies. Naturally growing stinging nettle should not be consumed; look for freeze-dried capsules to help ease nasal inflammation and help the body build a tolerance to increasing histamine. Use butterbar to calm seasonal allergy symptoms, but be sure to check that it contains no pyrrolizidines, which can cause liver damage.
Aside from living in a large bubble or sporting a face mask á la the bird flu panic, fighting seasonal allergies should be a bit easier with a little knowledge, preparation, and prevention. And though we can never fully defeat spring allergies, we sure as heck can give it our all, sniffly noses, stuffed sinuses, itchy throats and all!