The weather warms, your garden grows, the world turns beautiful and young again. Everything about spring is energizing and inspiring. Almost. For millions of people, this is also Sneeze Season.
Flowers in bloom and warmer temps bring a bevy of eye-watering, allergy-stimulating irritants that could make even the most die-hard naturalist relish the great indoors. But before you reach for that bottle of prescription pills or over-the-counter-medicine, consider some simple, more natural ways.
“The best course of action when it comes to allergens is avoidance. If ragweed is in bloom, that may not be the best time to go for a hike if you are allergic to ragweed,” says Canyon Ranch in Tucson Medical Director Stephen Brewer, M.D., whose specialty is integrative medicine. “But if you do want to get out, you can minimize the severity of allergies through diet modification and by taking a few simple precautions.”
Fish rarely sneeze
Because allergens essentially cause inflammation in the body leading to symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy eyes, one useful way to keep your reaction to irritants at bay is by introducing more omega-3 (good fat) into your diet. Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce allergic responses.
“For example the omega-3 you get from eating cold water fish such as salmon and cod will help reduce swelling. The same is true for flaxseed oil and walnuts,” explains Dr. Brewer. “It’s not a cure, but it will certainly help.”
Conversely Dr. Brewer says foods such as corn oil which are high in omega-6 (bad fat) and trans fats can actually contribute to inflammation and should be eliminated. He adds that acupuncture has also been shown to be an effective way to reduce allergen inflammation.
A clean environment
Allergens such as dust and pollen love collecting on surfaces such as carpets, drapes, shelves, upholstery and even stuffed animals. A little spring cleaning can go a long way to reducing allergy-provoking contamination. But remember: Vacuuming and disturbing allergen collectors can initially cause more problems than they solve.
“A good spring cleaning is a great idea. But if you are the person who has the allergy problems, by all means let someone else do the cleaning,” Dr. Brewer says. “You would be amazed how much invisible detritus dusting or running a vacuum will kick up.”
Other environmental improvements can include:
• Removing any visible mold from walls and floors using a solution of water and chlorine bleach, or a product that contains chlorine bleach or other fungicides. If you are sensitive to chlorine, consider a mixture of white vinegar and water to help kill mold. If you use an air conditioner, be sure to check it regularly for mold contamination. A dehumidifier can be helpful in keeping your living environment dry.
• Consider buying an air filter such as a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which removes particles in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores.
• Try taking a bath or shower before going to bed. This will help remove pollen from your hair and body, keep it out of your bed, and may provide some allergy relief.
So, before you reach for the pills, think about the natural solutions to allergies. Then enjoy the beautiful springtime.