Connecticut has certainly seen its fair share of temperamental weather this year, with record-high temperatures in February reaching 70° and predictions for Easter Sunday boasting 80°. When these higher temperatures meet April showers, plants and trees experience rapid growth. The result is all of the dormant Winter mold and fresh plant pollen releasing into the air. In these high-mold, high-pollen conditions, even the most allergy-resistant of us may suffer. Consult an Allergist who can test you to determine what allergens most bother you and when you should take precautions. For example, some people with Spring allergies are not allergic to pollen. Instead, they are allergic to mold which is triggered by rapid plant growth and rain.
Here are 10 ways to relieve Spring allergies:
1. Keep your car and home windows closed
Keep your home's windows closed when the weather forecast first indicates LOW mold or pollen counts. If you have more severe allergies, you may opt to keep your windows closed from the first LOW indicator through the entire season, until counts return to LOW or NONE. Of course, since it is not practical to stay cooped-up inside your home, remember to keep your car windows closed and your car AC set to Recycle.
2. Keep the air in your home clean and dry
During allergy season, you can greatly improve your breathing and reduce allergic reactions while inside your home. Clean your home weekly, from top to bottom, to prevent mold and remove allergens. Keep a dehumidifier, an air purifier, and an air conditioner running in warmer months. The dehumidifier and air conditioner dry up excess moisture to prevent mold, and the purifier cleans and recycles the air. The real key is changing the filters in these systems regularly. You can find the recommended duration in the user manual, or online for that model, and then set a reminder in your calendar.
3. Get allergy-fighting house plants
You may already be aware of how indoor plants increase the oxygen in a room and improve your breathing. Did you know that certain plants clean the air by removing allergens and toxins? English Ivy removes mold from the air, and Daisies remove impurities.
4. Wipe animal fur
Your pets may be the primary suspects when it comes to carrying allergens into your home. Keep animal-friendly wet wipes near the door, and wipe your pet's body ears-to-toes when she comes inside. When pollen counts are highest, use a dry cloth first which will attract the pollen away from your pet's fur.
5. Remove your outdoor clothes
When you come inside from a long day of being out in the allergy-ridden elements, change your clothes as soon as you get home. If you need to go outside regularly, such as to take a pet out, wear a jacket or cardigan dedicated to outside, and keep it hung by the door. If you have severe allergies, wear other protective items when you go outside, such as a hat to prevent pollen from clinging to your hair or a mask to avoid breathing in allergens. On high pollen and mold count days, allergens tend to cling to you. Taking a shower when you first get home or before bed can greatly reduce allergy symptoms.
6. Drink hot water with lemon
The most effective remedy for relieving allergies or cold symptoms is to drink a lot of water. It thins mucus and when combined with lemon acts as a disinfectant and expectorant. The steam from drinking hot water with lemon will also open your sinuses. If you can handle the bite, plain horseradish or horseradish sauce are also very effective at clearing your sinuses.
7. Avoid high-histamine foods
Certain foods and beverages contain high levels of histamine. Under normal conditions, most people eat these foods on a regular basis without experiencing any allergy symptoms. On the other hand, some people suffer year-round from histamine intolerance. During allergy season, anyone can experience severe allergic reactions when pollen and mold counts are high, and the person consumes high-histamine foods and beverages.
Examples of high-histamine foods and beverages to avoid are:
- fermented alcoholic drinks including beer and wine
- fermented foods such as vinegar, soy sauce, and pickled vegetables
- vegetables such as eggplant, spinach, avocado, and tomatoes
- fresh fruit such as citrus, pineapple, and strawberries
- dried fruit such as apricots, dates, and raisins
- all dairy
- cured meats such as bacon, lunch meat, and pepperoni
- nuts such as cashews, walnuts, and peanuts
- packaged or smoked fish such as tuna, mackerel, and sardines
8. Burn essential oils
Warm 100% pure essential oils such as Tea Tree and Lavender in an oil burner to detoxify and purify the air. These two essential oils also act as expectorants, which loosen mucus and phlegm. Eucalyptus oil purifies the air and opens nasal passages. Before trying any essential oils, research the properties carefully. Some have side effects or may be toxic to animals. Some have specific applications (read: ingested, topical, inhaled) or may act as a decongestant rather than expectorant (more on that in #10).
9. Check the daily forecast
Weather websites (note about link: scroll to mid-page for "Fairfield pollen levels") and your local news stations report the allergy forecast every day during allergy season. Before you commute to work or venture out on that Saturday morning hike, check the forecast for the day's pollen and mold counts. If counts are higher, wear protective items such as a hat, mask, or zipped jacket. It also helps to wear material that is static-resistant, such as cotton, to prevent pollen from clinging to you.
10. Opt for expectorants over decongestants and antihistamines
If natural remedies are not enough, opt for medicines that contain expectorants rather than decongestants or antihistamines.* Mucus is a necessity and has many roles in your body. Thin mucus is healthy and kicks germs, impurities, and allergens to the curb. In fact, according to Dr. Jonathan Hern, we produce "about a half a liter a day" when we are healthy.
Decongestants (Claritin-D or Sudafed) dry-up mucus; antihistamines (Claritin or Benadryl) thicken it. When you take decongestants or antihistamines, you hinder mucus production throughout your entire body, not only your sinuses. Decongestants may also lead to nose bleeds, sinus irritation, headaches, and infection since your body's natural mucus defense is down. Expectorants thin mucus, returning your body to its more natural, efficient way of functioning like a well-oiled machine.
*This is not a medical recommendation and does not take the place of medical advice from a physician. Consult with your physician or allergist before taking any medication or supplements, especially if you have a medical condition and/or are taking other medication.
Weather Underground search: Oxford, CT Weather History for February 2017
National Weather Service search: Oxford, CT 7 Day Forecast
A Better View Cleaning "How to Prevent and Safely Remove Indoor Mold"
WTNH "How Your Plants Can Help Your Allergies"
Dictionary.com search: expectorant
Mind Body Green "Everything You Need to Know About Histamine Intolerance"
Plant Therapy 100% Pure Essential Oils
AccuWeather search: Fairfield, CT Weather Forecast Allergies
Medicine Net "Guaifenesin/Decongestant/Antihistamine - Oral"
WebMD "The Truth About Mucus"