10 tips for overcoming seasonal sneezing, itching, and congestion
“April showers bring May flowers.” And a lot of people sure look forward to this season of growth. But for allergy sufferers, a wet, rainy spring also brings more sneezing, itching, coughing, congestion, and stuffiness.
In fact, contrary to popular belief, rain can actually WORSEN your allergies by stirring up and spreading around pollen and other allergens.1
It happens when rain droplets break apart the pollen that has settled on the grass, foliage, or ground—sending even more tiny particles into the air… causing allergy sufferers to reach for their tissues. Plus, those tiny particles can cause allergy symptoms to linger up to 12 hours after the rain ends!
Then, even when the sun returns, you’re still not really in the clear. That’s because pollen counts actually SPIKE AGAIN a few days after the rain ends and the plants start to grow—creating even MORE misery.2
And that’s not all. A rainy spring also causes mold to release more spores into the air—making those of us with mold allergies a sneezing, coughing, congested mess.
As you can imagine, this presents quite the dilemma. I mean, we’ve ALL been anticipating the return of beautiful spring weather… but allergy sufferers tend to feel like prisoners in this “season of renewal.”
So, let’s discuss how you can make the most of these next few months, especially if you have seasonal allergies…
10 tips for overcoming pesky
- Think twice about antihistamines. Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergy symptoms. But they can have many unwanted side effects.
For example, first-generation antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, have been linked to drowsiness, dry mouth and eyes, blurred or double vision, dizziness, headaches, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, difficulty urinating, and constipation.
And second-generation antihistamines, such as loratadine, aren’t much better. Side effects can include headache, cough, sore throat, abdominal discomfort, nausea or vomiting, and tiredness.3
- Try acupuncture instead. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. A major study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed this alternative approach can reduce allergy symptoms, improve quality of life, and lessen the need for medication.4
- Take your probiotics daily. As I explained in the lead article on page 2, probiotics improve gut health and increase longevity. And, it turns out, they may also be the key to controlling your allergies! In fact, according to a 2015 meta-analysis of 23 randomized trials, probiotics helped reduce the severity of symptoms in people with allergic rhinitis.5
- Add an herbal remedy to your regimen. Herbal remedies have been used for centuries to treat allergies. One of the best is butterbur.
In fact, a 2017 review of 12 randomized-controlled trials found that butterbur effectively reduces the sneezing and stuffiness associated with allergic rhinitis.6 And another controlled trial found it worked as well as cetirizine—a popular OTC allergy medication—in combatting seasonal allergies.7
- Take your vitamin D. As you know, vitamin D is a powerful nutrient that plays an essential role in many physiological processes. And some studies suggest it even affects how your body reacts to allergens, like pollen.
In a 2017 review, researchers found a link between low vitamin D and an increased risk of allergic rhinitis.8 In other words, increasing vitamin D may be an effective strategy for managing symptoms. As always, make sure you supplement with 250 mcg (10,000 IU) of vitamin D3 daily.
- Wash your hair and face after a day outside. Since pollen can stick to your skin and hair, it’s important to wash it off when you come inside. This can reduce your exposure to pollens and prevent symptoms from getting worse. (If you have pets, be sure to keep pollen out of their fur, too. A good brush with gloves after a trip outside usually does the trick.)
- Park your car in a garage or other indoor space to avoid pollen. And when driving, use the recirculation button on the ventilation system so you’re not constantly bringing in allergen-laden air.
- Exercise indoors. When pollen counts are high, it’s best to exercise inside. You might consider joining a gym for the season—or walking indoors at the local mall.
- Use your clothes dryer. Line drying will cover your laundry in pollen.
- If you have AC in your home, keep it running with the windows closed. That is, at least until allergy season passes. And to further ensure clean, indoor air, make sure to change the filter in your furnace. You may also want to consider purchasing an air purifier (preferably one that’s HEPA-based) to significantly reduce airborne allergens, including mold.
At the end of the day, if you suffer from allergies, the key is to first identify your triggers. (Work with a specialist whenever needed.) Then, following some of the steps outlined here should help minimize your symptoms during any time of year.
“Why Rain Actually Makes Your Allergies Feel Worse, According to Doctors.” Prevention, 4/6/21. (prevention.com/health/a36004686/does-rain-make-allergies-worse/)
- “3 Health Conditions that Stormy Weather Can Make Worse.” Health Essentials, 1/25/21. (health.clevelandclinic.org/3-health-conditions-that-stormy-weather-can-make-worse/)
“What’s the Difference Between First-Generation and Second-Generation Antihistamines?” WebMD, 11/7/22. (webmd.com/allergies/difference-between-first-generation-antihistamines-second-generation-antihistamines)
“Acupuncture may be an antidote for allergies.” CNN Health, 2/20/17. (cnn.com/2013/02/19/health/acpuncture-allergies/index.html)
- “A systematic review and meta-analysis of probiotics for the treatment of allergic rhinitis.” Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2015 Jun;5(6):524-32. doi.org/10.1002/alr.21492.
- “Is butterbur an effective treatment for allergic rhinitis?” Evidence-Based Practice, 2017; 20(11): 15. doi.org/10.1097/01.EBP.0000541879.42327.4f
- “Randomized controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis.” BMJ, 2002; 324(7330):144. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7330.114
- “The role of vitamin D in allergic rhinitis.” Asia Pac Allergy, 2017; 7(2):65-73. doi.org/10.5415/apallergy.2017.7.2.65