We know: you think of spring as a beauty to behold from behind glass – because of all that pollen in the air. But let Allergic Living show you how to do spring better, how to feel great and seize this glorious season.
1. A BETTER PILL
If you’re among the many who need an antihistamine to survive tree pollen season, it’s time to branch out. The diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine pills that mom used to give you do help fight the drippy, weepy symptoms, but who needs the daily drowsies? One allergist describes seeing patients feeling sleepy up to four days after stopping these pills.
To the rescue: there are second-generation antihistamines on pharmacy shelves that are far less sedating. These include the brands Allegra, Clarinex, Claritin, Zyrtec, plus generic versions. (In Canada, the brands include Aerius, Claritin, Reactine and Allegra.)
Here’s a hot tip: try finding more than one brand that works for you. New York City allergist Dr. Paul Ehrlich, author of Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent’s Guide, recommends switching between drugs if, after several weeks, you find your body stops responding as well to one of the pills.
2. CLEANSE YOUR GARDEN
Your worst hay fever foe could be planted right outside your window, warns horticulturalist and author Tom Ogren. Take stock of your plants: if one has fruit or berries, it’s not male and won’t release pollen (female plants don’t produce pollen). If you can’t identify a plant on your own, take a clipping to a nursery for help identifying its gender.
“If you’ve got a highly allergenic plant, particularly if it’s in proximity to your doors, you should replace it with the exact opposite,” Ogren says. “You will have just made a wonderful change in your yard.”
Some examples of allergy-friendly flowering plants are: peonies, hydrangea, roses, foxglove, fuchsia and poppies. Click to see more allergy-friendly plants.
3. TAKE THE STING OUT
Have you got a stinging insect allergy? Then it’s high time you reclaimed spring and summer. Any reaction to the sting of a honeybee, yellow jacket, hornet or other insect that turned into more than itching and swelling at the sting spot suggests you’re at risk for a serious reaction.
“Almost all the time, patients who had a slight reaction the first time then had a more severe reaction the second, and they’re going to have a real problem if they get stung a third time,” Ehrlich says. “Each sting is worse than the previous one.”
That is, unless, you get allergy shots. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) recommends that those who have had a systemic reaction to an insect sting, and who test positive to that venom, get immunotherapy.
Doing so reduces the risk of a full-body reaction phenomenally – to less than 5 per cent. Dr. Paul Keith, a Canadian allergist, says an immunized person should be able to receive up to 50 stings at once before the body is overpowered by toxins.
4. SWEET-SMELLING RIDE
Your home is hermetically sealed from pollen, and your desk at work, a dustless oasis with HEPA filter standing guard. But what about your wheels? A handful of auto manufacturers now empathize with your right to a wheeze-free drive. All Ford and Lincoln vehicles with Ford’s cabin air filtration system have allergen-reducing air filters rated to remove pollen, mold spores and other airborne irritants.
Volvo has gone a step farther with four of its models, with a mechanism that flushes out a car’s interior air automatically when the doors are unlocked. The cars’ air filters block pollen and neutralizes gases. The Volvo’s air quality monitor will also seal off the air intake if levels of noxious gases outside get too high.
5. POLLEN-SAFE, GLUTEN-FREE
While you’re breathing easier in your newly spruced-up garden, why not pick a handful of herbs and tomatoes for something new in the kitchen? Quinoa and amaranth are two great grains that are naturally gluten-free, and will go nicely in a tabbouleh salad.
We recommend that people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or even those hungry for a different dinnertime taste may want to dabble with these tasty and nutritious grains that are now widely available. Quinoa – yellow, red and black pearls – are high in protein and used in cereal, soups, salads and stews. Or try quinoa flour in a batch of baked goods.
Amaranth is also making a splash as a gluten-free grain. Its seeds are high in fiber, iron, and other minerals. Pop them like popcorn, boil them like rice, or roast them like chickpeas. The vitamin-rich leafy greens of this plant are also a great addition to salad.
6. APRIL NASAL SHOWERS
Oprah Winfrey swears by hers and, on her former show, made the neti pot a household name in sinus relief. But today, for those of us who prefer to rinse out the nasal passages with a little less concoction-making and applying of teapot nozzle to nose, there are now some excellent and easy-to-administer saline sprays and rinses available.
Oprah got this part right: the cleansing brings benefits.
A review in the journal American Family Physician says both saline nasal sprays and salty liquid poured in one nostril and out the other reduce inflammation and help the nose to resist irritation. One study that looked at pollen-allergic kids found those who took antihistamines and regularly rinsed with saline solution had fewer symptoms than kids who just took medication.
Next: From mold management to pollen screens