Darn Those Seasonal Allergies
Cough, Sneeze & Wheeze
Your nose is runny, and you’re sneezing and coughing, but you don’t have a cold! Chances are that you’re one of the many people suffering the burden of seasonal allergies. There’s nothing enjoyable about feeling sick, especially when you’re not sick. Let’s put things in perspective and find out why these allergies are so common.
Seasonal allergies describe a set of respiratory symptoms that affect individuals who are allergic to pollen from a variety of grasses, weeds and trees. Seasonal allergies are often referred to as allergic rhinitis. These allergies are triggered by pollen and mold spores. Some common sources include ragweed in the fall, grass pollen in summer, tree pollen in spring, and fungus spores in summer and fall.
Allergies develop when an allergen enters the body and an immune reaction is activated. The immune system produces allergen-specific antibodies (IgEs). These antibodies travel to mast cells lining the eyes, nose and lungs. The mast cells release a chemical called histamine in response to the allergen. This causes irritation and inflammation of the membrane lining and produces the symptoms of an allergic reaction— scratchy throat, sneezing, coughing, itching and watery eyes. Other symptoms can include swelling, headaches, loss of senses, fatigue, dark circles around the eyes, and can even trigger asthma.
How do you know that your allergy symptoms aren't just a cold? You can be pretty sure your hacking and sneezing are the result of an allergy if:
- There is no fever and no muscle ache.
- Mucous secretions are clear and runny.
- Sneezes occur in rapid, multiple sequences.
- Your nose, ears and throat (especially the palate or roof of the mouth) are itchy.
- Your symptoms last longer than the 7 to 10 days a typical cold usually lasts
- If you're still not convinced, your doctor can perform skin or blood tests to confirm whether you are allergic to something.
How do you deal with seasonal allergies? Reducing exposure to airborne allergens and adopting a healthy lifestyle of course! Sometimes it’s not always this easy, but here are some suggestions to get you through the seasons.
Reducing exposure to airborne allergens
- Thoroughly clean pets that have been outdoors as well as carpets and rugs.
- Remove shoes before entering the house to minimize exposure.
- Don’t hang laundry outside
- Shower and change clothes after being outside. Don’t wear outdoor clothing in your bed
- Install an air purifier in the bedroom/home
Adopting a healthy lifestyle
- Increasing antioxidant nutrients including beta carotene, Vitamin A, C and E, as well as the mineral cofactors essential for antioxidant defense mechanisms such as zinc, selenium and copper. These help to decrease bronchial constriction.
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Natural Treatments & Solutions
- Peppermint, frankincense, and lavender essential oils helps to relieve nasal congestion
- 5 to 10 drops of a 3–5% dilution of lavender or peppermint essential oil, taken twice daily is a safe starting dose (5 for children, 10 for adults). The oils can be mixed with food and should be used regularly for best effect
- Omega-3 fatty acids help stabilize mast cells, reducing their susceptibility to irritation, try fish oil with sufficient DHA (Adults: 1-2 grams per day, Children: 20mg/ day up to 1 gram per day).
- Quercetin can help to stabilize cell membranes and is found in many food sources such as capers, fennel, bee pollen, cocoa powder, ancho peppers, raw onions and tarragon
- Probiotics support balanced immune functioning and help the body manage stress
- Vitamins B and C, and herbs like licorice, ashgwanda, and holy basil are important for adrenal health. A healthy adrenal system means less inflammation
- Try to reduce your consumption of inflammatory foods such as meat and dairy
Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. For more information please visit her website marniwasserman.com