Allergies become worse with the fluctuating temperatures between a cold winter's end and the start of a warm spring. Pollen levels rise, decline, then rise again due to unpredictable weather patterns, resulting in "the priming effect."
Atlanta-based allergist and past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), Dr. Stanley M. Fineman believes that when a patient is exposed to pollen and then re-exposed later after drastic weather changes, allergic reactions are more significant because the immune system is primed to respond.
Along the south and east coast of the U.S., tree pollen levels peaked and dropped in early February, then peaked again by the end of the month.
"The typical symptoms are congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, watery eyes, sore throat, itchy throat, headaches, itchy ears," says Dr. Sheila Amar. Allergies could also trigger asthma for many.
Don't let the spring seasonal allergy blues get you down. Fight and bounce back with these ten all-natural ways to alleviate pesky allergies.
1. Monitor your diet.
Diet can influence the effect that seasonal allergies have on the body. Eating nuts, fish, fruits, and veggies can ease allergy symptoms because of the ingredients that actively combat pollen. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and krill oil are known anti-inflammatories. According to a study published in the journal Allergy, children who ate fish regularly before age one were had less allergies by age four.
2. Purchase non-toxic, natural cleaning products.
Household cleaners, dish detergent, and soap provoke allergies through strong toxic odors emitted by ammonia, air fresheners, and ozone generators, says Dr. James L. Sublett, section chief of pediatric allergy at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Aerosol cleaning sprays can trigger allergy symptoms and is linked with increases in asthma, asthma-medication use, and wheezing. In the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine researchers report that the frequent use of spray cleaners make the risk even greater.
3. Cover your face with a mask or wear safety glasses when doing yard work.
Wearing glasses or sunglasses outdoors keeps pollen and other irritants away from your eyes, reducing itchiness and redness. Since pollen levels are high between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., schedule outdoor work after this time frame to avoid exposure and further irritation. Outside activities are safer during the late afternoon or after it rains when pollen levels are lower.
4. Clean your living space, wisely.
Carpets provide style and comfort but they can also store allergens. If the household contains carpet and pets, animal dander, dust, and pollen accumulates. Replacing carpet with hardwood or lineoleum flooring or washable area rugs reduces allergens collected in the home, according to the Mayo Clinic. Furniture, windows, plants, pets, fireplaces, curtains, and blinds should be cleaned thoroughly with recommended cleaning products (see tip #2).
5. Shampoo eyelashes.
A dime-sized drop of baby shampoo two times a day can reduce itchiness, redness, and swelling around the eyes by as much 90 percent, researchers at Brooklyn's Long Island Hospital say. Using baby shampoo removes sticky pollen before it gets into the eyes, explains medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, Dr. Clifford Bassett. After being outdoors, scrub off the pollen particles that can easily get trapped in hair and stuck to the skin.
6. Eat yogurt containing probiotics.
Plain yogurt contains probiotics that naturally lower levels of antibodies that create allergy symptoms. Yogurt alleviates digestive symptoms that are often caused by food allergies and intolerances. According to The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy by W. Allan Walker and Courtney Humphries, infants of women who consume probiotics during pregnancy show half of the allergic symptoms than infants of women who do not. Yogurts containing live active cultures are best.
7. Sip on some homemade black or green iced tea.
Brewed black and green tea contain 10 times the amount of antioxidants found in fruits and veggies. Antioxidants found in teas are highly beneficial to the human body and can modify a person's metabolism to detoxify harmful chemicals, says John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y. The benefits of tea extend outside of allergies and can be used to lose weight, fight diabetes, and heart disease.
8. Install a furnace filter.
Widely-available store-bought allergy filters can cut up to twice as much pollen out of the air compared to high-endfilters. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology suggests to leave the fan on "to create a whole house air filter that removes particulates." It is important to change the filter every three months so the air is clean year round.
9. Wear cotton and other natural fabrics.
Remove and wash clothes that have been worn outside once you enter your home. Doing so will block any pollen from shedding onto indoor furniture and bedding. Synthetic materials, like polyester and nylon, can build an electric charge that pulls pollen out of the air and onto the body, says researchers at Philadelphia's Jefferson Medical College Hospital. It is important to wear cotton, linen, and other natural fabrics which do not attract as much pollen.
10. Enjoy a vacation near the water during the spring.
Pollen levels tend to be lower around bodies of water. Those that are prone to allergies will find solace visiting lakes or beaches. Dr. Russell B. Leftwich, an allergist and spokesman for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says "if you can afford to live in that first quarter mile from the beach, it's great."
These ten all-natural ways to alleviate spring seasonal allergies will help combat the pesky pollen levels.