April showers bring May flowers, sure, but they also bring something eight million Canadians dread every spring: seasonal allergies. Oh yes, those itchy eyes and runny noses and hacking coughs can just about kill you.
If you’re one of those hay fever or allergic rhinitis sufferers, then you know how it feels to want to scratch your eyes out while you gasp for clean air to breathe. Well, don’t curl up in a corner until the warm weather passes just yet. There are some practical things you can do to make sure you make it there alive and well and even happy. We promise. In fact, we’ve got an Allergy Survival Kit that will have you enjoying spring like never before.
Let’s face it, we’ve waiting a long time for the warm weather to arrive and now that it’s here, we’re enjoying it. That means the best BBQ, cocktails on the patio, backyard parties with our favourite outdoor games. You in?
What are seasonal allergies anyway?
Many seasonal allergy symptoms occur because of an increase of pollen or ragweed in the air. Just because you don’t see the culprit doesn’t mean it isn’t there. What happens is that every time you breathe in pollen, you overstimulate your immune system, which releases inflammatory signals that lead to constricted airways, inflamed sinuses and a constantly runny nose.
For many seasonal allergy sufferers, symptoms start in April and can last all the way through August, while some people get some relief during certain months. Why? You may be allergic to one type of pollen and not another. From April to May, you’re suffering because of the tree pollen from ash, birch, oak and maple trees filling the air, followed by grass pollen in June and July. Finally, ragweed fills the air at the end of the summer, throughout August and into September.
How to Allergy-Proof Your Home
There are many things you can do within your own home and on your smartphone that will help you manage your allergies. Did you know pollen released by trees tends to peak between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.? Try avoiding outside activities and keep your windows shut around this time to keep the pollen outside where it belongs.
Consider investing in a high-quality vacuum cleaner with a specialized filter (certified HEPA or High Efficiency Particulate Air filter), designed to catch and trap very fine particles like pollen and dust mite allergens. You can also invest in specialized bedsheets and pillow covers that block dust mite allergens from invading your bed.
When you start your spring cleaning, make sure you take the time to dust your home thoroughly. Dust and dust mites can be a key allergen trigger in your home, especially when airborne. To keep your home dust-free, keep your broom or feather duster in the closet and opt for a damp cloth. It will trap and hold onto dust instead of spreading it through the air.
And when you’re done allergy-proofing your home and are ready to venture outdoors, you can download different apps on your phone to help you track peak pollen times and days, so you can plan your outdoor activities accordingly. Hello Google!
What to Eat to Ward Off Seasonal Allergies
There are a ton of allergy-fighting foods you can add to your daily diet and favourite meals. Apples, red onions, broccoli, green tea and berries are rich sources of quercetin, a phytonutrient that helps reduce histamines. When an allergen attacks your immune system, histamines are released, which causes your nose to run, your eyes to itch or the feeling of tightness in your chest. When you reduce histamines, you reduce allergy symptoms. Make sure you keep a good supply of quercetin-filled foods and natural health products on hand during allergy season.
Another superfood to consider is spirulina. Its benefits are out of this world! Not only did NASA consider growing it in space for long-term missions, but it also can prevent nasal congestion, sneezing and runny noses. Try adding spirulina to your next morning or post-workout smoothie for an easy allergy fighter.
Go Natural: Handy Seasonal Allergies Survival Kit
This allergy season, you don’t have to suffer in stuffy silence. With your Seasonal Allergy Survival Kit in hand, you’ll be prepared to handle whatever symptoms Mother Nature pitches you way.
- Ancient herb stinging nettle: Gaining popularity in the culinary world, nettles have anti-inflammatory properties to help keep allergy symptoms from flaring up. Available in both supplement and tea form, they can also be added to our favourite smoothies and soups or try them sautéed with dinner. Michelle recommends using stinging nettle to combat stuffiness.
- Pantry items to fend off irritants: Eating foods rich in quercetin, a plant compound, can act as a natural decongestant. Apples, red onions, tomatoes and broccoli are just a few options.
- Superfood spirulina: Having been proposed as a superfood for astronauts on long-term space missions, this brightly hued algae’s works as a decongestant while reducing sneezing and runny noses.
- Safe sinus relief: Michelle explores tools like the neti-pot which ease upper respiratory discomfort and helps to decongest nasal passages with salt water.
Michelle W. Book is CHFA’s in-house holistic nutritionist. She uses her role as a health advocate to fulfill CHFA’s vision of a Canada where everyone benefits from natural health and organic products. For more about natural ways to manage your seasonal allergies, visit chfa.ca.