Spring is in the air! The days are getting longer, the flowers are blooming, and the temperatures are warming up. But if you're one of the millions of Americans who suffers from seasonal allergies, this time of year can be anything but joyous.
In fact, the spring and summer months can be completely miserable for some. But life doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. You can reduce your exposure to common allergens and tame seasonal allergy symptoms when they do appear by following a few allergy-smart tips.
What’s Behind Seasonal Allergies?
In some parts of the U.S., allergy season can begin as early as February, and a mild winter can kick things off even earlier. Between the trees, grasses, ragweed, and mold spores, there’s no shortage of potential allergens that can have you sneezing well into the fall, especially after a rainy spring. Add in dust and pet dander and you’ll be going through boxes of tissues in no time. And even though all of these allergens are essentially harmless to the human body, the immune system can recognizes them as intruders and deploy antibodies to stamp out the threat. And that can trigger those all-too-familiar seasonal allergy symptoms of coughing, sneezing, runny nose, watery, and itchy eyes.
Tips for Avoiding Allergens
Though it’s impossible to completely escape all of the causes of allergies this time of year, some proven remedies can help you to minimize exposure. Spending less time outdoors during allergy season is good start. If you do plan on being outside, check the local air quality on a site like airnow.gov to gauge what pollen counts are before heading out.
If allergies do force you to spend more time indoors, there are a few things that you can do around the house to reduce allergy risk. If you have an HVAC unit, switch over to a high-efficiency HEPA filter and be sure to change it out every month or so to keep the air in your home free from circulating airborne particles. It’s also a good idea to invest in a high-quality air purifier. Having one that can filter out not only allergens like pollen, dust, and pet dander, but also smoke, exhaust, and other environmental pollutants can greatly improve your home air quality.
Cleaning often is another smart strategy. But be careful not to stir up the very things that can set off your allergies. Some vacuum cleaners and dusters may actually throw up just as much dirt, dust, and dander as they remove. Getting a vacuum with a HEPA filter and using a microfiber cloth for dusting can work to eliminate allergens while keeping them contained.
Take a Supplement for Allergy Relief
When seasonal allergies hit, most people head straight to the pharmacy for an antihistamine or decongestant. These over-the-counter medications may be effective for reducing immediate symptoms but long-term use may pose its own set of dangers. On the other hand, nature has already provided safe and effective nutrients that treat seasonal allergies, which can not only address your seasonal allergy symptoms but also support overall health and well-being.
Probiotics. Best known for their beneficial effects on intestinal health, probiotics can have a big impact on allergies. Because your digestive tract accounts for a substantial portion of your overall immune function, balancing your intestinal microbiota can be the most effective strategy to pinpoint the root of persistent allergy symptoms. But while foods like Greek yogurt and kimchi contain naturally-occurring probiotics, the best way to boost your seasonal allergy defenses is with a supplement.
Probiotic supplements have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of allergy symptoms.1 In one recent placebo-controlled trial, those taking a probiotic saw a nearly 10 percent decrease in sneezing symptoms.2 But not just any probiotic supplement will do. When choosing one for allergy relief, there are three probiotic strains to look for in particular: Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and bifidobacterium longum. These have been shown to be the most effective at reducing symptoms in people with seasonal allergies.3 Fortunately, you can find all three of the allergy-fighting strains in a probiotic supplement like Kyo-Dophilus.
Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). AGE may not have a big reputation when it comes to allergies, but it’s a powerful weapon that can enhance your body’s immune response to airborne particles. That’s because when pollen and dust get into your airways, it causes inflammation that triggers the sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes that you dread. But according to recent an Iranian trial, AGE can substantially diminish inflammation in the airways as well as reduce mucus production.4
Quercetin. A potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, quercetin has been shown to be effective in combating seasonal allergies naturally.5 That’s due to its unique ability to slow the release of histamines in the body, which can work to reduce pesky allergy symptoms including cough, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Fortunately, you can get plenty of this nutrient from eating a healthy diet full of plant foods such as broccoli, leafy greens, apples, and citrus. However, you can also incorporate a supplement into your daily regimen for added support.
Nettles. Next time an allergy attack has you sneezing up storm, take some nettles. Often referred to as “stinging nettle,” this medicinal plant contains active compounds that fight off inflammation and inhibit key enzymes in pro-inflammatory pathways.6 The best way to take full advantage of nettle’s allergy-busting benefits is to begin supplementation a few months before allergy season begins. But taking a twice daily dose of 300 mg can help reduce symptoms in as little as 15 minutes.
Though you may not be able to stop seasonal allergies completely, there are proven methods that can help you minimize exposure and manage symptoms. Staying indoors when pollen counts are high, allergy proofing your home, and incorporating a symptom-busting supplement can help you get through the season a little easier. That way, you can spend more time doing the things you love instead of constantly saying “achoo!”
- Lopez-Santamarina A. Probiotics as a Possible Strategy for the Prevention and Treatment of Allergies. A Narrative Review. Foods. 2021 Mar 25;10(4):701.
- Sadeghi-Shabestari M. Effect of Probiotics on Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized, Controlled, Clinical Trial. Galen Med J. 2020 Jun 26;9:e1918.
- Dennis-Wall JC. Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volume 105, Issue 3. March 2017. Pages 758–767.
- Zare A. Purified Aged Garlic Extract Modulates Allergic Airway Inflammation in Balb/c Mice. Iranian Journal of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. 7. 133-41.
- Mlcek J. Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Molecules. 2016;21(5):623. Published 2016 May 12.
- Roschek, B. Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytother. Res. 23: 920-926.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.