After a long and unusually wet winter, who doesn’t love a beautiful spring day? The warm air, the gentle breezes, an abundance of fragrant flowers, buzzing bees and … the sound of sneezing, sniffling and coughing.
Okay, nobody likes that last part, but there is relief if you suffer from seasonal allergies.
April and May are some of the worst months for allergies. And while many people suffering from allergies need help in the form of prescription or over-the-counter allergy meds, there are other ways to reduce suffering. Try these simple steps, which you can include in your daily routine, to reduce your exposure to the things that make you crazy thisspring.
Learn to know what makes you sneeze.
It may be as simple as taking note of which pollen exposure seems to affect you the most or what combination of pollens seem to be the worst offenders. If necessary your primary care doctor or an allergist can arrange testing that can help you know what’s causing your sinuses to bloom.
Close the windows.
You may be tempted to let the outside in during the beautiful days of spring — and that’s fine. Just check the pollen count before you do. On high-pollen days, keep your allergens at bay with closed windows and HEPA filters for your AC.
Leave your shoes at the door.
When you come inside from walking the dog or doing yard work, leave your shoes at the door. Wash your hands and face, and change out of your clothes. If you’ve been vigorously working in the yard like cutting grass, take a shower. These steps can reduce the amount of irritants that hitch a ride into your home.
Drink plenty of water and other liquids.
If allergies have you stopped up, drink more liquids. The extra liquid will help thin your mucus and give you some relief.
Go see your primary care doctor.
Most people just suffer with their allergies, but taking an OTC non sedating antihistamine or using a topical nasal inhaled steroid can often provide significant seasonal relief. If the above measures and OTC treatments are inadequate, your PCP can help you, whether it’s identifying the allergens that annoy you or developing a treatment plan, including medications, that can help you manage them. If you have further interest in understanding allergies, read further.
Control Allergies by Strengthening your immune system
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of Americans living with environmental allergies is rising. Currently, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Allergies estimates that as many as 50 million people have nasal allergies, 26 million struggle with hay feverand 8.3 million suffer with respiratory allergies. However, good news is on the horizon, as a recent study conducted by the Institut Pasteur and published in Science found that microbiota may have a role in preventing allergies.
As the Institut Pasteur explains, microbiota, also referred to as gut flora, is the microbe that lives in our intestines and involved with various functions, including immune defense. Although scientists have speculated for years that microbiota plays a role in allergies, researchers from the Institut Pasteur believe that this new study demonstrates how a reduced number of microbiota can lower the effectiveness of the immune system and trigger allergies.
In addition to genetics playing a significant role in environmental allergies, some experts believe the use of insecticides, germicides and antibacterial substances has sanitized our environment and lowered the number of microbiota in our intestines, contributing to the rise in allergies. This is referred to as the hygiene hypothesis, which states that a lack of exposure to parasites and infectious agents during childhood can interfere with the development of the immune system and raise the risk of developing allergies, particularly when combined with antibiotic overuse.
Allergies occur when your immune system mistakes a harmless substance as a germ. To protect your body from the irritant or allergen, your immune system produces IgE antibodies (chemicals designed to react to allergens) and trigger histamine. Histamine is the same chemical released when you have a cold. The longer the exposure to the allergen, the longer the symptoms last. Minimizing exposure or avoidance can significantly reduce symptoms. Common allergens that produce cold-like symptoms include dust mites, pollen and mold spores. Allergies are not contagious, and they are sometimes nothing more than an annoyance. Other times, they can lead to complications, including upper-airway breathing obstructions.
For relief, many people rely on prescription and over-the-counter medications, but some foods can also help manage allergies. For instance, researchers have evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may help improve gut health and alleviate bronchial inflammation and allergic disease. Different types of fish, fish oil, nuts/seeds and green leafy vegetables are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Over the last few years, probiotics (good bacteria that help control harmful
bacteria) and prebiotics (carbohydrates that can’t be digested and function as food for probiotics) have received a great deal of credit for their gut health benefits. While studies have concluded that probioticsand prebiotics can influence gut immune response, investigators have not found a connection to alleviating allergies, except for one small study that suggested Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in yogurt and sourdough, might help control pollen allergies.
Additional immune boosting tactics:
Lastly, the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America recommends the following tips to help control the amount of known allergens, like pollen, dust mites, mold spores and animal dander in your household:
Paul R. Block, MD, FACP, FCCP