Enjoy Spring—Avoid Allergies

Ah, spring! The days are growing longer. The trees are covered with colorful blossoms. The sweet fragrance of flowers hangs in the air. And our allergies are making us miserable!

Isn’t it funny how one of the most enchanting times of the year can also be one of the most unpleasant for those with problem allergies? There are plenty of options for dealing with them. The first step, of course, is talking to a primary care doctor to see whether over-the-counter medications can provide some relief, or if you’ll need a more aggressive treatment, like a prescription or immunotherapy. But if spring allergies are driving you crazy, here are some proven ways to minimize the nuisance.

Keep the outside out. The weather is improving and, after a long winter, it’s nice to fling open the windows and let the fresh air into your home. It might not be such a good idea, though. Huge amounts of almost invisible pollen can be in the air. Some types even have tiny wing-like features that help them float on the breeze, and into the house.

So, keep the doors and windows closed when possible, especially between the hours of noon to six in the spring when trees release the most pollen. You can go a step further by making sure your air-conditioning system has a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to trap pollutants and clean the air.

Pollen can also sneak into the house via clothes, hair and pets. To hamper the effects, leave your shoes outside, change clothes as soon as you get in, and take a shower to remove unseen pollen from skin and hair. The hot steam helps wipe out some of the little buggers wafting in the air, too!

Once pollen enters your home, it stays until you get rid of it. Vacuum thoroughly and make sure to empty the vacuum outside.

Mask your problem. Yeah, we know it might make you feel a little self-conscious, but if spring allergies are preventing you from getting out and doing the things you want to do, there’s a simple and affordable solution: a mask.

Just any mask won’t do. Look for an N95 respirator mask, which means the mask can block 95 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns, such as pollen. These masks are typically available at drug stores, home improvement stores and select department stores. They can help you breathe easy while working in the yard or doing chores inside the house.

Eat to beat allergies. The food you eat and the pollen you breath may seem unrelated. However, there is clear evidence that certain foods can increase the impact of allergens, and others can reduce them.

Allergists have learned that many patients who suffer from pollen allergies have similar allergic reactions after eating certain foods. Those sensitive to grass pollens should cut back on figs, melons and oranges. Those who react poorly to weed pollen might want to avoid artichokes, bananas, cantaloupes and herbal teas. Alcohol can make the symptoms of bad allergies even worse.

A pediatric study suggests eating fruits and vegetables, like cucumber, eggplant, green beans, tomatoes and zucchini, can reduce the symptoms of allergic asthma. Vitamins C and E, as found in broccoli, spinach and many berries, can reduce allergy-related swelling in airways. A natural chemical called quercetin can be found in berries, onions, parsley and peppers. Quercetin seems to reduce the body’s histamine reactions, a big part of our bodies’ allergic response. And a study in Japan found omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in mackerel, salmon and tuna, could decrease the symptoms of hay fever.

Now, you may have heard that eating local honey can help combat spring allergies. While honey has many health benefits, including soothing sore throats, researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center discovered local honey didn’t actually help people build up an immunity to local allergens.

Yes, springtime can be a pain when allergies come calling. But hopefully these suggestions will help you make the most of this wonderful season. And when problematic pollen has really got you down, just take a look around, enjoy the beauty of spring and be thankful. Maybe the allergies are worth it!


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