Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the US, affecting more than 50 million Americans each year. So no, it's not your imagination that the drugstore gets a lot more crowded when the seasons change. The typical symptoms: itchy eyes, congested sinuses, and headaches. Sexy, right?
The first action many take is running to the doctor or pharmacy for antihistamines, decongestants, steroid nasal sprays, and eye drops to relieve the suffering. Some end up dependent on taking these medications for months, which may have questionable side effects. There are natural remedies for allergies you can try before resorting to strong pharmaceuticals.
Types of seasonal allergies
Seasonal allergies (rhinitis or hay fever) are caused by tree and plant pollens. People will react differently throughout the year as various allergens are introduced into the environment. WebMD offers a list of plants and trees by season known to cause allergic reactions. It’s important you know what you are allergic to, and when you are most at risk. That way, you know what your triggers are.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction
Everyone reacts differently when exposed to allergens but here is a list of common symptoms:
- Skin rashes, red skin, hives, dryness, eczema
- Tingling, itchy sensations in the mouth
- Itchy nose, sinus congestion, and stuffiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea and abdominal cramps
- Coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, and sometimes loss of consciousness
Allergic reactions can also cause asthma attacks in some people.
What causes seasonal allergies?
Pollen is the biggest culprit when it comes to seasonal allergies. Trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny grain-like seeds into the air to fertilize other plants. Our body detects the pollen in our nose, on our skin, and in our eyes.
WedMD explains that if you are allergic to pollen, you have a hyper sensitive immune system that releases antibodies to attack the allergens. This leads to the release of chemicals in the blood called histamines. It is the histamines that make your nose run, your eyes itch and tear up as they try to expel the allergens from your system. Medical News Today states that, “Allergies are hypersensitive responses from the immune system to substances that either enter or come into contact with the body.”
Use these natural remedies for seasonal allergies to ease your symptoms
Want to treat your symptoms the all natural way? Luckily, you have some options—none of which come with weird side effects.
1. Clean your home, hair, and clothing
During allergy season, pollen is your number one enemy and it's a formidable opponent because it gets everywhere. Make sure your home is as clean as possible by keeping your windows and doors shut, as well as dusting and vacuuming twice a week. Use a mask to protect yourself from dust and pollen stirred up from the carpet. (Role playing that you're a cowgirl while you clean—totally encouraged.) Wipe down flat surfaces and vents where pollen will collect.
Run your air conditioner on a low setting and consider running an air purifier. That way, less dust will be blowing around your house than it would on a higher setting. Wash your clothes, especially your jacket and sweaters, regularly. Since pollen collects in your hair, wash your hair after you've been outside.
2. Stay inside when pollen counts are at their highest
Pollen will collect on your clothes, in your hair, and on your skin. When you are out and about you are not only breathing in these allergens, but you will bring them into your home. Check Pollen.com for a daily pollen count and on the worst days, if possible, stay inside especially in the morning.
3. Use essential oils
Eucalyptus oil has been proven to work as an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent according to several studies reported by Clinical Advisor. It's recommended to use eucalyptus oil in a diffuser and a teaspoon in each load of wash during allergy season. Plus, it smells super relaxing.
Frankincense oil has been shown to improve the immune system and work as an anti-inflammatory agent according to Medical News Today. It can also be added to a diffuser or rubbed onto your chest and behind the ears.
4. Eat a healthy diet
Making sure your diet is full of natural foods is an essential step to avoiding the effects of allergens and staying healthy, according to studies by Harvard Medical School. By eating nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods, your body's immune system can balance itself and combat the allergens in your environment. Studies show that getting 2000 milligrams of vitamin C a day can reduce histamine levels by up to 40 percent. That's major! Northwestern Medicine suggest a list of seasonal allergy-fighting foods that include citrus, red grapes, almonds, broccoli, and cocoa. (And who doesn't want more cocoa?)
Other foods that can help ward off allergy symptoms:
Local raw honey: A teaspoon of local raw honey each day can help build up immunity to the pollens outside your door that impact your sinuses. Studies at Charles Sturt University in Australia have shown that natural honey also acts as a powerful anti-bacterial agent.
Leafy green vegetables: Spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine, arugula, and watercress are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and can help reduce the inflammation caused by allergens.
Quercetin: Quercetin is found in vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower, green tea, onions, and citrus fruits. It has been shown to offer number of health benefits, among them a reduction in respiratory inflammation and discomfort caused by allergies. You can take a quercetin supplement to help ward off allergy symptoms.
5. Try nasal irrigation
Make a saline solution with warm, distilled water, a quarter teaspoon of salt, and a quarter teaspoon of baking soda to irrigate your nasal passages. The saline will clear out mucus and wash away collected pollen. A Neti pot (which looks like a small teapot) can help with nasal irrigation. Pro tip: use distilled or boiled tap water instead of tap water.
As you can see, there are a host of things you can do to fight the effects of seasonal allergies without relying on expensive, potentially harmful, and often ineffective over-the-counter medicines. They key thread to all these solutions is a commitment to healthy living and taking positive actions to combat the effects of allergies.
Originally published August 7, 2018; updated February 26, 2020
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