Seasonal allergies affect more than 50 million Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tree, grass and weed pollen as well as mold are some of the most common allergens, and warmer, spring weather produces an uptick in symptoms starting as early as mid-March.
"What's interesting is that we are noticing an increase of people affected by allergies primarily in developed nations," said Dr. Amy Shah, Genexa Medical Advisor and double board-certified medical doctor in internal medicine and allergy immunology. "There are a coupon of reasons this could be happening. First we are sanitizing our homes and bodies too much, creating a weaker immune system. Second, unnecessary toxins in medicines and personal care products, designed to make our lives more convenient, are causing more allergy agitations."
Dr. Shah recommends getting a head start on seasonal allergies with these strategies:
1. Delay your workouts and showers until the end of the day. Pollen counts are highest in the morning through early afternoon, and the tiny particles of pollen can latch onto your skin and hair. Delaying your outdoor workout until evening can lessen your chance of experience allergy symptoms. Taking your shower at night can wash off the tiny particles of pollen you may have collected throughout the day.
2. Start your allergy medicines earlier. Dr. Shah recommends starting your regimen about two weeks before allergy season sets in in your area. Starting early can potentially help prevent nasal priming, or greater sensitivity to pollen that can worsen your symptoms over time. Use a decongestant like Allergy-D to help relieve your allergy symptoms including itchy, watery eyes and sneezing. You can also try a nasal saline spray like Saline Care to flush mucus and help you breathe easier.
3. Pass on happy hour if you're experiencing allergy symptoms. Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it increases blood flow and inflammation to areas that are already suffering from allergy symptoms. Red wine contains sulfites, a common allergy culprit, and sugary cocktails can inflame your symptoms.
4. Try adding some allergy-fighting foods into your diet.
- Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that has anti-inflammatory effects.
- Onions are high in quercetin, a flavonoid with potential antioxidant activity that acts as a natural antihistamine.
- Turmeric contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound that inhibits the release of histamine, inhibits allergic response, and decreases oxidative stress.
- Oranges are rich in vitamin C, which works as a natural antihistamine.
- Local honey may inoculate the body against local pollen that causes seasonal allergies if taken at the very start of the allergy season.