Spring has sprung, and, with it, tear ducts across America are starting to gush once again. Spring allergy season has arrived, and if annual sufferers aren't feeling the symptoms yet, they soon will be. Those of you in the know – from personal experience – know what we're talking about – itchy, watery eyes; lots of sneezing; and probably a runny nose accompanied by congestion. It can feel something like a cold, only worse, in part because it tends to stick around for several weeks, if not a month or two. It isn't just one culprit, either. Depending on what part of the country in which you live, tree pollen usually is the first allergen to arrive, typically showing up sometime between late March and early April. That's often to be followed by grass pollen (May), weed pollen (most prevalent in the summer), and then ragweed pollen from summer to the first frost in the fall, per womenshealthmag.com.
Causes of Spring AllergiesPollen is the biggest trigger for allergies, also known in laymen's terms as hay fever and in more scientific terms as rhinitis. Pollen consists of miniscule grains that are released by trees, grasses, and weeds so as to fertilize other plants. Once they make their way into the nostrils of people, they tend to set the body's defenses into overdrive. Among the types of trees that can produce the allergy triggers, per webmd.com: alder, ash, aspen, beech, box elder, cedar, cottonwood, cypress, elm, hickory, juniper, maple, mulberry, oak, olive, palm, pine, poplar, sycamore, and willow. The grasses and weeds include Bermuda, fescue, Johnson, June, orchard, perennial rye, redtop, saltgrass, sweet vernal, and Timothy. Your immune system reads the pollen invaders as a threat and, in defensive mode, send out antibodies to counter attack the allergens. This in turn releases chemicals known as histamines into the bloodstream, and it is the histamines that produce the runny nose, itchy eyes, and the other typical allergy symptoms, such as coughing and dark circles under your eyes. Now you know why some allergy medications are known as ‘antihistamines.'
9 Products or Strategies to Ward off AllergiesAnyone who has suffered through spring allergies know how miserable it can make you feel 24/7. It's not just the symptoms mentioned earlier – even without allergy medication that can make you lethargic and make driving ill-advised – allergies can sap your energy and make even routine household tasks and work assignments a struggle, for weeks on end. Even getting a good night's sleep becomes a battle. Once you have been through your first go-round with spring allergies, you will be motivated to find and try out various measures to help you through the hard times. Here are nine such suggestions, keeping in mind that a consultation with your physician is always advisable:
- Antihistamines. Let's start with the obvious. There are versions available only through prescription as well as several choices over the counter. The latter include the oral likes of Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra, per mayoclinic.org. Equate, with loratadine, is also popular.
- Eyedrops. Look for the ones that address allergies and itchy, watery eyes. This often involves trial and error – trying out several to find the one most effective for you. I have sometimes found one brand of eyedrops that works well for a week or two, then loses effectiveness, requiring me to find another one to switch to that will pick up the slack.
- Nasal sprays. As with antihistamines and eyedrops, a consultation with your local pharmacist can be most helpful. As with any of these, always check for warnings, such as brands that cause drowsiness or might not be suited for someone with high blood pressure. With some guidance, you can find choices that are effective and safe for you.
- Probiotics. Per prevention.com, studies have found that ramping up the body's friendly bacteria with probiotics, such as yogurt, can help prevent or stifle nasal allergies by helping to regulate your body's immune system.
- Limit outdoor work. Lawn mowing, weed pulling, and assorted other landscaping or gardening chores can stir up allergies. Think about hiring someone else to do those things until you get over your symptoms. Even playing golf can be a problem right after the fairways, tees, and greens have been mowed, which is typically two-three times a week. Don't give up the great game; just be prepared.
- Close doors and windows. This is especially important at night, when pollen counts are highest.
- Herbal supplements. These can include butterbur, quercetin, and stinging nettle, per webmd.com. Butterbur, for example, which is sourced from a European shrub, has been shown via studies to be as effective as antihistamines in alleviating allergy symptoms. An extract of butterbur known as Ze 339 has been singled out as particularly useful. Quercetin, which can be found in apples, onions, and black tea, has been shown able to block the release of histamines.
- Vacuum your house twice a week. But wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose because vacuuming can kick up pollen, mold, and dust entrapped in your carpet or rugs.
- Honey. Research has been mixed on this, but honey produced locally to where you live is believed to help fend off spring allergies. The trick is to start ingesting it at least a month or so before allergy season hits so as to build up a resistance, essentially inoculating yourself in advance. No guarantees. In fact, no guarantee with any of these.