How to avoid allergy symptoms
While you can’t completely avoid nature during allergy season, there are steps you can take to avoid allergy symptomsBy Alicia McAuley
Sign up for a pollen alert
“Your local weather station may provide pollen reports,” suggests Janine Fraser, a naturopath with a special interest in allergies, at West Shore Family Naturopathic in Langford, B.C. “Some weather channels will even e-mail pollen information for your specific city to your inbox, so you can prepare yourself before you leave the house.”
Sleep with the windows closed
“Don’t keep your windows open in the morning, because that’s when pollen counts tend to be higher,” explains Fraser. So keep all windows shut overnight and use an air conditioner if you’re trying to stay cool, suggests Dr. Susan Waserman, an allergist and clinical immunologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
Invest in a quality HEPA filter
“There are so many great air purifiers now,” says Fraser, who notes that you can find a quality filter for around $100. Run an air filter in your bedroom and keep pets out of your sleeping space to ensure that your body has time to rest and recharge overnight with no allergy flare-ups. A HEPA vacuum may also help.
Dry clothes indoors
Line-drying clothes may be more eco-friendly, but it’s not going to help that stuffy nose. “If you’re having a pollen allergy, use a dryer,” suggests Fraser.
Manage your stress
“Extra stress can throw off your immune-system balance,” says Fraser. “For some people, it’s a case of fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.” Fraser notes that exercise can help keep stress in check, and that some people will turn to yoga or go for a massage.
Find the right treatment
Once you’re in full-blown itchy, sneezy, watery-eye mode, there are a number of things that you can try in order to manage your symptoms and relieve discomfort.
Aside from over-the-counter antihistamines (think Claritin), there are also stronger, prescription-only options for treating your allergies. The backbone of allergy treatment is nasal steroids, says Waserman, which work by blocking the inflammation caused by an allergic reaction. Unlike a simple over-the-counter spray that you might use for a cold, these sprays are available only by prescription. For a natural way to soothe that stuffy nose, Fraser suggests using a neti pot, which rinses your nasal passages with a gentle saline solution. “The neti pot is a wonderful thing, because it physically removes the allergen,” she explains.
Fraser also suggests trying a high-quality probiotic that is strain-specific for balancing immune-system reaction. You may also want to try herbs that help your body deal with stress, like ginseng.
But before you spend a bundle at your local health food store, be sure to check with a conventional doctor or naturopath. “People can still have side effects from natural products,” cautions Fraser. “Just like any other kind of medical pharmaceutical.”
If your allergy symptoms don’t seem to respond to any other forms of treatment, you may need to try immunotherapy (allergy shots). “Shots do change the immune system,” says Waserman.
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