Spring has sprung! For months we’ve been anticipating the warmer weather, getting outdoors more, and blooming flowers. But for one in four Americans, spring also triggers seasonal allergies, an immune system response that transforms  allergy sufferers into congested, itchy sneeze machines. Plus, thanks to a precipitation-heavy winter, experts are predicting a particularly severe spring pollen season. We’d like you to avoid as much of that ickiness as possible. Here are 7 steps to relieve spring allergies that promise to prevent or at the very least minimize your reaction to the allergen onslaught.

7 Steps to Relieve Spring Allergies

1) Limit pollen exposure.7-tips-to-avoid-spring-allergies

Every little bit helps when the air is hazy with pollen. Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat, keep the windows closed at home, and avoid the outdoors at midday to afternoon when pollen levels are at their highest, says Dr. Bassett.

And when you come home, try to de-pollen yourself as thoroughly as possible. Change your outdoor clothing before going in the bedroom, and shower and wash your hair before turning in for the night.

2) Take allergy medicine early

If you have seasonal allergies, start taking your preferred medication (nasal antihistamines/steroids, oral antihistamines, or eye drops) two weeks before symptoms are likely to set in, says Clifford W. Bassett, M.D., Medical Director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and AAFA ambassador. Once your nasal or airway passages are inflamed, it reduces the chances that medication will work. “If you take the right meds before symptoms are severe, they’ll work better,” he says.

If your main complaints are nasal congestion, sneezing, and a runny nose, opt for a nasal spray. (Caveat: we caution patients to stop using nasal decongestant sprays after five days, since the spray irritates the lining of the nose and can exacerbate symptoms, causing a rebound runny nose.) If allergies typically make you feel itchy, try non-sedating oral antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claratin), fexofenadine (Allegra), or cetirizine (Zyrtec). And if your allergies make it hard to sleep, take Benedryl or Chlor-Trimetin, which are 100% sedation antihistamines.

3) Rinse your nasal passages regularly

net-potAs uncomfortable, or as my kids put it “gross!” it may sound, experts advocate rinsing your nasal passages daily using a “neti-pot”, during pollen season. Our providers believe nasal irrigation is especially important for people who are constantly headachy and stuffy. Rinsing with a salt water solution decreases inflammation in the sinuses. How does a saline rinse work? Nasal saline can dilute and rinse away pollen and molds that have traveled to your nasal passages. For beginners, the process can be slightly clumsy—find detailed neti pot directions and safety guidelines on the FDA website.

4) Give your home and car a thorough spring cleaning

It’s a good excuse to get it done. Truth is,  allergies are not  just an outdoor thing. If you ever open your windows and doors, keep your shoes on in the house, or don’t strip down your clothes when you come inside, there is pollen in your home. So shoes off at the door!  Aside from pollen, a lot of people are also allergic to dust mites and mold, which linger in homes as well, accumulating during the long winter months. To reduce indoor allergen exposure, keep pets off the bed as dust mites are attracted to pet dander, vacuum often, set air conditioners to “recirculate”, keep the windows closed, and check for moisture, if you have a mold allergy. Our docs say “A little bit of elbow grease goes a long way.” Same goes for your car. Dusting and vacuuming it often during pollen season, and especially getting down into those hard to get crevices is important. And, just like your in home air conditioner, running the AC on recirculation can help keep the bad guys out.

 5) Try natural remedies

Not a fan of conventional medication? The Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine (AARM), recommends patients take natural supplements like nettles and a plant pigment called quercetin to relieve allergy-induced runny nose, watery eyes, hives, and swelling. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, quercetin acts as an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory, and in test tubes, it “prevents immune cells from releasing histamines, chemicals that cause allergic reactions.”

Another strategy: vitamin C. It’s a natural antihistamine, but it’s very gentle—taking 500-1000 mg., three times a day can help to reduce symptoms.

Additional natural aids like cayenne pepper and green tea sometimes help to reduce allergic reactions without OTC medication. If you suffer from cedar pollen allergies,  ( it’s a thing!) , drinking a green tea called “Benifuuki” might be your best bet. A double-blind study in Japan found that “symptoms such as nose blowing and eye itching were significantly relieved in the Benifuuki group compared with the placebo group.

 6) Balance your hormones and reduce stress

In keeping with a holistic health strategy, many doctors believe you have to address underlying issues that may be exacerbating your allergic reactions. If you’ve battled hormone imbalance, chronic stress, or food sensitivities, addressing them could alleviate your allergy woes, as when we’re stressed, we’re more likely to have allergic responses. Research shows that when our cortisol levels are imbalanced, it affects the immune system. The more we can help them reduce stress (through yoga, meditation, getting enough sleep, etc.), we can decrease the chances of having allergic responses to the environment. A study published in the April 2014 issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) supports stress-reduction therapy—it found that allergy sufferers with persistent stress experience more allergy flares.

7) Take a shower when you come in and put clothes directly in washer

‘Nough said!

Myth Buster: The Local Honey Remedy… Is a Myth. Sorry. 

We so wanted to believe this, but alas, while honey is a healthy sugar-substitute and displays antibiotic properties, a 2002 study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that local honey doesn’t desensitize allergy sufferers to the pollen in the air.   People are allergic to windborne pollen and for the most part, bees collect the heavy, sticky pollen present in flowers and fruit. So any of that pollen that makes it into the honey we eat wouldn’t act as immunotherapy for the allergens that make us sneeze. Ah well….

Having a rough allergy season? Here’s the good news: our providers at AFC New Britain are here to help relieve your suffering. Visit us, with no appointment needed 7 days a week from 8-8pm Mondays-Fridays, 8-5pm Saturdays and Sundays. We accept all insurances.