As someone who has dealt with seasonal allergies her whole life, I’m used to people giving me sideways glances when I carry a personal box of tissues with me from April to May. Nope—I’m not dealing with a perpetual cold, it’s just the pollen in the beautiful spring air doing its darndest to make it look like I am. The moment the trees start to bud I get the itchy eyes, scratchy throat, and endless nose-blowing that you’re either familiar with yourself or have likely seen on an antihistamine commercial. If you are familiar with the head-cold-like symptoms of nasal allergies, you and I certainly aren’t alone. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, roughly 50 million Americans suffer from nasal allergies—and that number has increased two-to-threefold since the 1970s. I take antihistamines to help manage my symptoms, but they’re not cure-alls. Because of that, I’ve discovered a few natural ways to treat seasonal allergies so you can put the Kleenex down and get back to your regularly scheduled, non-sneezing life.
1. Dig In the Dirt
You might think that getting out in the great outdoors would be a poor choice if you have allergies, but scientists have long pondered what is called the “hygiene hypothesis,” which holds that the increase in allergies over the years is partially caused by a decrease in our exposure to allergens—as in, we’re not spending enough time in the dirt with all those micro-organisms and bacteria, and so when our immune systems encounter it, we have an exaggerated, “allergic” reaction. If that doesn’t convince you to start gardening, do it for the relaxation planting can provide; a 2013 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that reducing stress levels alleviates self-reported allergy symptoms. So get digging!
2. Switch To Nighttime Showers
This one sounds simple, but it’s one of the best ways to keep your home allergen-free. See, whenever you enter your home at the end of the day, you unknowingly trail in all the particles of pollen and allergens from the outside world. WebMD suggests that taking a shower and changing clothes helps to wash away those allergens when you get home—and keep your sneezing at bay. Plus, taking a shower or bath at the end of a long day can also be a great way to relax. Oh, and be sure to towel-off Fido’s feet: dogs and cats can drag in pollen particles, too!
Related: Natural Ways To Fight Off A Cold
3. Nix Dairy
I know, I know—putting the kibosh on your weekly pizza habit or love of yogurt is nobody’s idea of a good time—but during the height of your seasonal allergy symptoms, cutting out dairy can help. This is because casein, the naturally occurring protein found in dairy products, has been shown to increase mucus production or make it more thick. Try reducing or eliminating dairy from your diet when your symptoms are at their worst.
4. Use A Neti Pot
Chronic allergies can leave your nose feeling stuffed 24/7, and while decongestants can make some people feel jittery or “wired,” using a neti pot is a great alternative to clearing up allergy nasal congestion without side effects. The neti pot is a small pot used to treat nasal congestion from common ailments (the Mayo Clinic recommends using a neti pot for allergies, sinus infections, and even colds). The process itself may not sound all that cute, but essentially you fill the neti pot with a saltwater solution (make sure the water you use is distilled or sterilized) and pour the water in one nostril until it comes out the other (along with that backed up gunk!). If you’ve suffered from chronic nasal congestion due to allergies, a neti pot is a good option to consider. You can purchase them at most pharmacies or drugstores and they come with instructions on how to prepare the saltwater rinse.
When you’re sneezing your head off, the last thing you might feel like doing is working out, but listen to this: when you exercise, the swollen blood vessels in your stuffy nose constrict thanks to better blood circulation—so you may actually find relief from your nasal congestion and swollen shnoz with a little moderate exercise! Walk or jog for 30 minutes or go for a quick bike ride—your nose will thank you.
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