Surviving Seasonal Allergies

03. March 2011

“Spring has sprung. The grass is ris. I wonder where the flowers is?”

I recited the little verse for my husband the other night and he looked at me like I’d lost my mind! Come on! It’s the first little poem I learned growing up in the Midwest. Surely some of you have heard of it!

Truth is, the days are getting longer… the temperature is warming up and the flowers really are beginning to bloom, along with the mustard weed and other powerful allergens in our region.

Seasonal allergies… They’re miserable, incurable and they affect tens of millions of us. Springtime allergies kick in when our immune systems, mistaking pollens for harmful substances, respond by triggering the release of chemicals including histamines (that’s what causes those watery eyes, sneezing fits and runny noses.)

On the bright side, an allergic response is actually the sign of an active immune system (small comfort when my eyes look like I’ve pulled an all-nighter!). Research has found that allergy sufferers have lower rates of many types of cancers. Still, allergies should be managed. Left unchecked, they can lead to sinusitis.

I checked with the pros and found some advice that just might let you smell the roses without a swollen nose!

Keep allergens out. Pollen can collect on your clothes, skin and hair and be tracked into your home, where it mixes with household dust. A shower and change of clothes will cut down on the irritants you inhale. Keeping windows closed and turning on the air conditioning can also reduce allergy symptoms by filtering out pollen.

Perk up puffy eyes. The histamines released during an allergy attack cause blood vessels to dilate, making eyes swollen and watery (my major allergy symptom!). For quick relief try cold compresses or eye creams with ingredients that include caffeine. Cold and caffeine both reduce swelling to help you look and feel better.

Watch the weather. High winds and low humidity… conditions found here in southern California during a Santa Ana… allow more pollen to become airborne. Under these conditions, try to stay indoors between typical peak pollen hours of 5 a.m. – 10 a.m., or at least take allergy medicine before heading outside.

Understand your meds. Many people confuse antihistamines with decongestants. Both treat allergies, but they affect the body in very different ways. Decongestants are for immediate relief. Antihistamines, however, work throughout the body to block the affects of histamines before they attack.

Go natural. Besides prescription and OTC allergy medications, there are a number of natural supplements that may be effective in quelling symptoms… potentially with fewer side effects. The herb, butterbur has been found in some studies to work as well as antihistamines, minus the drowsiness. Another herb that may help is stinging nettle. Research indicates it can work like an antihistamine. Both are available in capsule form, but be sure to talk with your doctor before taking them.

So there you have it… 5 ways to snuff out your sniffles and sneezes this spring!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.