Spring usually brings with it warmer weather and along with the more cheerful weather, comes the growth of flower buds, blooming trees, and pollinating plants.
Unfortunately, for many Americans, spring also means repetitive sneezing, a permanently runny nose, congestion, itchy eyes, and other bothersome symptoms.
If you’re among those who manage or suffer through seasonal allergies, you’re not alone! In total, more than 50 million Americans react to nasal allergens like pollen, mold, grass, pets, and more. Nasal allergies affect 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children.
The truth is, that seasonal allergies can make you miserable, but despite how infuriating and disruptive seasonal allergies can be, there are many simple strategies we can use to lessen their impact.
Before we can evaluate what solutions are available to combat the symptoms of seasonal allergies, it helps to understand what these allergies are, and determine the underlying cause.
People develop nasal allergies when their body’s immune system reacts to an external substance. The bodies reaction to the substance is often to treat the threat like an infection, by producing antibodies to fight it. These substances that cause the reaction are referred to as allergens.
Each time our bodies encounter the allergen, they produce more antibodies in anticipation, which releases histamine and chemical mediators within the body, which leads to an allergic reaction. These chemicals are typically the cause of symptoms, such as the runny or stuffy nose, irritated throat, and eye issues.
Depending on where you live, you might suffer more during certain seasons due to pollen blooms and blossoming plants.
What are our regions worst offenders?
In our three state region, covering Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, the worst seasons for pollen-related allergies are spring and summer. The worst offenders causing all of our misery in this region are: ragweed, elm, maple, ryegrass, sagebrush, oak, Arizona cypress and Russian thistle. Of course other more common triggers can still present problems for allergy sufferers.
Things you can do to get some relief
What can we do to lessen the impact of spring and summer allergens? Today we will cover some simple strategies from four different categories that will hopefully offer some relief from nasal and respiratory symptoms. We will take a look at reducing exposure to allergy triggers, taking precautions for when pollen counts are high, keeping our indoor air clean, and explore some over-the-counter or home remedies.
Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers
There are some steps we can take to reduce exposure to the substances that trigger spring and summer allergy symptoms. These steps include:
• staying indoors on dry, windy days.
• hiring out or delegating gardening chores to non-allergy sufferers
• removing clothes with exposure to outside allergens
• refusing to hang laundry outside
• wearing a pollen mask if we must do outside chores
The absolute best time to go outside during the peak of seasonal allergy season is after a good rain, which will help to clear the pollen from the air. If lawn mowing, weed pulling or gardening chores need done, try to delegate or hire out the responsibility to someone else who doesn’t suffer with allergies. If you must do yard care and outside chores yourself, then wear a pollen mask. When you return home from outside excursions during the day, remember to remove your clothes and shower as soon as possible, to rinse pollen from your skin and hair, and prevent your contaminated clothing from spreading allergens throughout your house. Another good tip for clothes is to refuse to hang laundry outside, because pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
Take extra steps when pollen counts are high
Seasonal allergy signs and symptoms can flare up when there’s a lot of pollen in the air. these steps can help you reduce your exposure:
• check your local media and the internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels.
• if high pollen counts are forecasted, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start.
• close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high.
• avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
Keep indoor air clean
HEPA air purifier: when your windows are shut, some of these devices can purify 1,100 square feet worth of air-making air purifiers ideal for your bedroom (where you spend almost half of your day) .
• keep windows shut if you can
• use air conditioning in your house and car, in combination with high-efficiency filters
• keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.
• clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a hepa filter.
In order to keep your indoor air clean and free of allergens, it is vital to keep your doors and windows shut whenever possible, and instead utilize air conditioning in your house and car to circulate air or cool your home. You should also attempt to keep indoor air dry with the use of a dehumidifier during allergy season. Dehumidifiers can stop mold growth indoors during the wetter spring months, and can also help to eliminate dust mites, by keeping your home’s humidity low, ensuring the creatures won’t survive. Running HEPA certified air filters or air purifiers can also help to circulate air and remove allergy-causing particulates from your indoor air. Some of these devices can purify 1,100 square feet worth of air, which might make an air purifier ideal for your bedroom to help create an allergy-free zone. Keeping floors clean from dust, which can get kicked back up into the air, can also be a helpful step. A good suggestion here would be to use a vacuum cleaner that also has a HEPA certified filter.
Try over-the-counter or home remedies
• antihistamines: the allergy-blocking medicine is available as eye drops, nasal sprays, and oral medication like Zyrtec and Claritin.
• oral and nasal decongestants: such as Sudafed, Afrinol, Afrin and Neo-Synephrine, among others can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness.
• saline spray: to calm your sinuses by lessening inflammation and moistening your nasal passages.
• local honey: to build-up your allergen tolerance
• herbs: to address nasal and respiratory symptoms
Over-the-counter medicines like antihistamines, oral decongestants and saline sprays can offer some of the most effective relief from nasal allergy symptoms. While these won’t cure your allergies, they can offer much-needed relief by targeting histamines, which cause your symptoms. Home remedies, like consuming local raw honey and use of herbs, have also been thought to potentially offer some reprieve.
Some people suggest eating local honey daily (collected within 5 miles of your home) can help to build up tolerance to pollen allergies. Although, there is little scientific evidence available in the U.S. to support these claims, it may be worth a try. Just be cautious of the potential of severe allergic reactions.
While it’s kind of funny to consider that some plants cause you to sneeze and itch, but others help those symptoms subside, people have relied on herbs as a form of medicine for thousands of years. The herbs butterbur and nettle have been said to be effective in combating respiratory and nasal symptoms respectively.
When home remedies aren’t enough, see your doctor
For many allergy sufferers, avoiding allergens and taking over-the-counter medications is effective enough to ease symptoms. Yet for others seasonal allergies are more severe. If you can’t seem to manage your symptoms alone, don’t give up, because a number of other treatments are available from your doctor. Your doctor can recommend skin tests or blood tests to pinpoint the allergens that trigger your symptoms. These tests can help determine what steps you need to take to avoid specific triggers and zone in on an effective treatment.
• Allergy shots: for some people, allergy shots may also be a good option. These shots can build up your body’s tolerance to the allergens that make your sinuses go crazy. People often need months or years worth of allergy shots to build tolerance to specific allergens, but with regular upkeep the shots should have you feeling much better during your worst allergy seasons.