Spring means flowers budding and trees coming into bloom. If you are one of the millions of people who have a seasonal allergy, also known as hay fever and allergic rhinitis, it can make you miserable by having to deal with sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and other irritating symptoms.
Allergic rhinitis develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environments that typically causes no problem in most other people. Symptoms can occur in spring, summer and early autumn. They are usually caused by allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores or pollens from grasses, trees and weeds.
People with perennial allergic rhinitis experience symptoms all year-round. This is generally caused by dust mites, pet hair, cockroaches or mold. Symptoms usually include a runny nose, itchy eyes, mouth or skin, sneezing, stuffy nose due to blockage or congestion and fatigue (often reported due to poor quality sleep as a result of nasal congestion).
ALLERGIC RHINITIS LEADS TO:
Decreased concentration and focus, limited activities, decreased decision-making capacity, impaired hand-eye coordination, problems remembering things, irritability sleep disorders and fatigue.
- Outside: pollens from grass, trees and weeds.
- Inside: pet hair or dander (a combination of dead skin cells and hair shed by the skin), dust mites and mold.
- Irritants: cigarette smoke, perfume and exhaust fumes.
- Chlorine: in swimming pools.
HOW TO AVOID TRIGGERS:
- Keep windows closed during high pollen periods. Use air conditioning in your home and car.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Use “mite-proof” bedding covers, pillows, comforters, duvets, mattresses and box springs.
- Wash your bedding frequently using hot water (at least 55◦C), to limit exposure to dust mites and a dehumidifier to control mold (if you smell mildew, you likely have mold).
- Clean floors with a damp rag or mop, rather than dry dusting or sweeping.
- Wash your hands after petting any animal and have a non-allergic person help with pet grooming, preferably outside.
- Wash your clothes after visiting friends with pets.
- If you are allergic to a household pet, keep the animal out of your home as much as possible. If the pet must be inside, keep it out of the bedroom so you are not exposed to animal allergens while you sleep.
- Replace carpeting with hardwood, tile, or linoleum – all of which are easier to keep dander-free.
- Don’t hang clothing outdoors to dry as pollen may cling to towels and sheets.
- Try not to rub your eyes. Doing so will irritate them and could make your symptoms worse.
Ideally, prevention should start a few weeks before allergy season and before symptoms develop. A dose of herbs and supplements taken early can eliminate the need for many later doses to reduce established symptoms.
Quercetin, a flavonoid found in leafy greens, tomatoes, berries and broccoli, is a natural anti-inflammatory that blocks histamine’s effects before it starts. Bromelain and vitamin C are used to enhance the action of Quercetin. Butterbur and Stinging Nettle may block the production of leukotrienes. From a naturopathic viewpoint, allergies are often associated with weak adrenal, immune and digestive functions. Treatments are therefore used to support and improve those functions and in this way alleviate hay fever symptoms.
Good health can help ease allergy symptoms, and good health starts with good nutrition, by including dark green, leafy vegetables, deep yellow and orange vegetables, nettles, bamboo shoots, cabbage, beet tops, beets, carrots, yams, onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne and horseradish in your eating plan.
Exclude alcohol, caffeine and dairy products, bananas and citrus fruit, chocolate, food colouring (tartrazine), peanuts, red meat, sugar and wheat from your diet.
Include: flaxseed oil, probiotics (e.g., lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus), a multivitamin (high potency and customized if possible), vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and Zinc.
- Intranasal corticosteroids are the single most effective drug class for treating allergic rhinitis. They can significantly reduce nasal congestion as well as sneezing, itching and a runny nose. However, you need to be aware that these cannot be used continually as this results in a rebound effect and results in not being effective.
- Oral antihistamines: Antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes.
- Decongestants: Oral decongestants can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. Combination medications: Some allergy medications combine antihistamine with a decongestant.
- Nasal spray: Decongestants also come in nasal sprays. Only use nasal decongestants for a few days in a row. Longer-term use of decongestant nasal sprays van actually worsen symptoms (known as rebound congestion).
- Immunotherapy: (Allergy shots) this is one of the most effective ways to treat seasonal allergies linked to pollen. These injections expose you over time to gradual increments of your allergen, so you learn to tolerate it rather than reacting with sneezing, a stuffy nose or itchy, watery eyes.
- Nasal Douching: Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution (nasal irrigation) is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion. Rinsing directly flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose.
More than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have symptoms all year-round. If you think you are a sufferer or allergic rhinitis, pay your pharmacist a visit and if your symptoms simply will not go away, seek the assistance of your medical practitioner or an allergist.