The days are getting longer, it’s feeling a little warmer, and the flowers and trees will soon be blooming… Spring is in the air but so are other things - like pollen.
It’s allergy season, and for a growing number of us that can mean nasal congestion, itchy eyes, sneezing and a host of associated symptoms. Seasonal allergies, also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever, typically develop during the spring and fall, though some people have symptoms year round (they are said to have perennial allergic rhinitis). Allergy symptoms occur when the body responds to otherwise harmless particles (again, think pollen) with inflammation.
If you believe you have allergic rhinitis it’s important to speak with your doctor for at least two reasons:
- Allergy symptoms can be confused with other disorders
- Conventional medicines can often offer significant relief
Because the body’s inflammatory response is affected by many factors, including what you eat and how well you manage stress, there are a number of things you can do on your own to help manage allergy symptoms:
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet that emphasizes vegetables and fruit, omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fish, low-glycemic index carbohydrates, whole grains, and anti-inflammatory oils like extra virgin olive oil or cold-expeller-pressed organic canola oil when cooking.
Make sure to use good air filters in your home. Most of us worry about outdoor air pollution and allergy symptoms, but air quality inside is at least as important. Experts recommend the use of High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in the home. In addition, have your air ducts cleaned at least once a year.
You may not be able to completely prevent breathing in pollen, but you might be able to wash it out of your nose and sinuses before it causes any problems. You may have heard of nasal irrigation. I favor using the now widely available neti pot, an inexpensive ceramic vessel, filled with homemade saline solution. The process sounds yucky, but it’s very effective, and when you’re having allergy symptoms use the neti pot once in the morning and once at night. Otherwise, it’s good idea to do a “cleaning” once a week.
Manage the stress your life in healthy ways. Chronic stress contributes to inflammation in the body, so it’s possible that stress can worsen allergy symptoms. There are many good ways to manage stress healthily; the key is to use them. Some of the basics include being sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, creating free time to relax, and exercising on a regular basis. You might even try the 4-7-8 breathing method I use – you can practice the technique with me by watching the breathing exercise video on harristeeter.com.
If you smoke please try to stop, and do your best to avoid secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke can irritate the lining of the respiratory tract, making inflammation more likely.
It’s a beautiful time of the year. Be well, and enjoy!
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **