Posted on Apr 12, 2019, 5 p.m.
It’s just about that time of year again, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Spring is warming the air, and so are millions of pollen particles that fertilize plants and tickle noses.
Seasonal allergies such as hay fever can affect anyone at any time, although it typically begins in childhood or early adulthood. Sometimes allergy symptoms can become more problematic later in life, particularly if their living environment changes.
Even if you have never had allergies, or have “outgrown” allergies from younger years there is still a chance you could become more sensitive to pollen when you reach your 60s and 70s, according to Dr. Mariana Castells of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Having allergies doesn’t mean that one is automatically doomed to weeks or months of piling up empty tissue boxes and explaining to people that you are not sick or crying it’s allergies. Most people tend to just endure seasonal allergies, but you don’t always have to suffer as there are some ways to protect yourself, manage symptom severity, and even increase tolerance towards specific allergens.
Trees, grass, and ragweed pollen are the biggest offenders for spring and summer allergies. Everytime you inhale pollen the immune system generates immunoglobulin antibodies that trigger mast cells to release mediators such as histamine which will eventually spread to tissues like the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.
High pollen exposure can cause the immune system to flood the body with these mediators which can results in hallmark symptoms including sneezing, itchy throat, coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, runny/itchy nose, and itchy/watery eyes. Symptoms may vary in length and severity depending on specific sensitivity to allergens and amount of exposure, as well as how much IgE is produced in the body and how many tissues are affected. This is also why some only have allergies in the spring or summer and why others may fight symptoms of a few days, weeks, or the entire season.
If you have severe symptoms speak with your doctor about allergy shots that may help you to develop a tolerance to certain allergens. Another option your doctor can help you with is treatment with a tablet under the tongue, which may be more gentle than the injections.
There are plenty of over the counter remedies that may help to manage symptoms such as antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids, speak to a medical professional who can help you choose which one is best for you to avoid complications.
Those wanting a more holistic method may find some relief with raw honey. High doses of raw honey was found to help combat allergy symptoms in a 2013 study. Putting raw honey in tea can help with coughs and sore throats.
Nature’s top edible antihistamines can be found in foods rich in vitamin C, quercetin, and omega-3 fatty acids such as citrus fruits, onions, and oily fish. Bee pollen is rich in vitamins, minerals, and bioflavonoids such as quercetin that are excellent for battling symptoms.
If you are going to be outdoors take steps to protect yourself by reducing your exposure to allergens. Monitor the environment, keep windows closed, and turn off the air conditioner to help keep outdoor air from getting in. Try to go out later in the afternoon or evening when pollen counts are lower. Surgical masks may be of benefit for when you have to be outdoors when the pollen count is high as they can block about 75% of pollen from being inhaled.
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This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.