With winter finally on its deathbed, it’s time to say goodbye to frigid commutes and icy sidewalks, and hello to singing birds, budding flowers… and spring allergies.
According to the folks at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, pollen from trees, weeds, and grasses can start kicking as early as February. And that’s when symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and watery eyes kick in, transforming up to 40 million of us happy-go-lucky human beings into miserable mucus monsters.
“An allergy is an immune system reaction to something that is normally not harmful, but the body thinks is harmful,” says Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, and author of The Great Cholesterol Myth. “Seasonal allergies are triggered by substances that are more common at particular times of the year, like pollen. Your body reacts with some kind of inflammation, which produces a lot of annoying symptoms.”
In addition to nonstop sneezing, you might experience shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing—all of which significantly decrease the odds that you’ll want to work out—much less get in a good session.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved a pill that treats grass pollen allergies. But if you’re not interested in being a guinea pig for the FDA, there are a few ways to relieve spring allergies.
6 Ways to Beat Spring Allergies
1. Check the Pollen Count
Along with incredible use of alliteration, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI) provides a helpful National Allergy Bureau (NAB) map that reports pollen and mold levels in your area. You can also sign up for personalized daily updates.
2. Attack the Dust Bunnies
Vacuum and dust your place thoroughly, paying close attention to crevices where dust bunnies and cobwebs can hide.
Then move on to your carpets, pillows, curtains, upholstered furniture, and under the bed. Oh, and don’t forget to wipe down the fan blades.
Picking up an Unger duster to get between vents is another bright idea.
Don’t just do this routine once and call it quits for the season; do it on the regular. Remember that whenever you crack a window or keep the door open to let in fresh air you’re also inviting allergens to make themselves at home.
3. Replace AC Vents
On high-pollen, windy days, keep your windows shut. But if you need to cool your place down, doing so with a grungy AC filter is a bad idea.
Not only will it make your AC unit less efficient, it’ll also circulate tainted air throughout your home.
When purchasing a new filter, pay attention to the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) or High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) rating. The type and rating you need depends on your unit. So you’re going to do have to do your homework to find the right fit. Basically that means you’ll have to ask Google for the answer.
4. Work Out Indoors
Whether you’re running errands or from the cops, if you’re doing it outside on a windy day you’re probably exacerbating your allergy symptoms by huffing and puffing mold and pollen.
Keep the windows and doors shut between 5 AM and 10 AM on blustery days. This can help shield you from allergy symptoms. But even if you’re not staying in, you do have options to mitigate your suffering.
“I prefer starting with the least damaging, safest substances, such as the Similasan remedies, which are homeopathic and basically have no negative side effects,” explains Bowden, referring to a Swiss brand of natural eye drops, ear drops, and other remedies. “However, if I were suffering a lot and nothing else was working, I’d try a nasal spray. [But] some OTC drugs have a number of side effects that aren’t fun, like sleepiness and the jitters.”
5. Boost Your Immune System
“Building up your immune system won’t stave off allergies any more than reinforcing your home will stave off hurricanes, but reinforcing your home may make it more likely your home will survive a hurricane,” says Bowden.
He recommends stocking up on immune-friendly foods and supplements like olive leaf complex, onions, apples, coconut oil, and honey.
“Honey (raw, organic) is soothing for the throat, which is one of the areas most affected by inflammation and irritation,” he adds. “Green tea has many healing compounds like catechins. However, how much these things help depends on the severity of the reaction and the sensitivity of the individual.”
Two other supplements Bowden recommends are quercetin and stinging nettle.
Quercetin is “highly anti-inflammatory and particularly good for allergies,” he says. Stinging nettle may help combat the sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes.
6. Roll Up the Windows
We know… it’s finally warm outside, but use the AC in your car instead of rolling the windows down.
And while this doesn’t let you enjoy the balmy weather or subject the world to John Legend’s “All of Me” at an absurdly high volume, it does keep the pollen and mold on the outside of your car instead of inside your body.