Seasonal Allergies: How To Overcome Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis
Cough, cough, sniff, snort, blow…those are the common sounds that we hear as seasonal allergies take hold of so many individuals every year. Allergic rhinitis (commonly known as hay fever) is categorized as a IgE-mediated immune response (the same response when you have a food allergy) which causes a release of histamine which in turn is responsible for the myriad of symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis, such as sneezing, rhinorrhea (runny nose), nasal congestion, pruritus of the nose (itchy nose), and often fatigue as the immune system is putting all its energy into removing the offending agent. The most frequent offenders in seasonal allergies depends on the individual and can include pollens from trees, grass, and weeds.
Unfortunately, the number of seasonal allergy sufferers is increasing every year. Why? While there is no consensus, there are a few reasons that have been found to increase the risk of allergic rhinitis. These include, increase in pollution (including more individuals moving from rural areas which have had lower rates of allergies into more urban areas and thus being exposed to more pollution), vitamin D deficiency (essential factor in proper immune function), increase in hygiene (creating too much of a sterile environment early in life can promote allergy formation), toxic home environment (use of toxic cleaners, smoking in the home can all weaken the body thus contributing to allergies), and other lifestyle related factors like obesity, stress, overuse of antibiotics, poor nutrition, and little to no physical activity. Many of these factors can be changed thus decreasing your chance of getting seasonal allergic rhinitis in the first place.
Outside of avoiding the above risk factors, what else can you do to prevent seasonal allergies from occurring or in the very least reduce the impact on your body so that you can make it through the season with minimal symptoms? First thing to do would be to determine to what you are allergic. This can be done via skin prick through any allergist (and some naturopathic doctors), or there is also a blood test that can determine what seasonal agent is your allergic trigger (this last test often requires you to have active symptoms for proper evaluation). Once you’ve determined which tree, grass, or weed you’re allergic, you can then determine when during the season it starts to grow/bloom thus enabling you to prepare yourself prior to that time; thus making your prevention efforts more effective. Also, once you know your allergic trigger, you can then review which foods cross-react with that trigger and remove it from your diet. Meaning there are some foods that if your allergic to a particular pollen will actually aggravate your symptoms, thus avoiding those foods would be very beneficial in reducing your overall symptomatology.
Furthermore, since most of the symptoms that arise in response to allergy triggers are due to the production of histamine – using histamine reducers can be beneficial at reducing the severity of your symptoms. There are a number of natural histamine reducers available; however, knowing which ones work and at what dosage can get a little tricky. Thus, consulting a healthcare practitioner that specialises in natural medicine, like a naturopathic doctor, can be helpful at finding what would work best in your case. Another very simple way to prevent certain seasonal allergies is to start consuming one teaspoon of local raw honey everyday a few months prior to the allergy season. Using local honey allows your body to be exposed to very small amounts of local pollen collected from the bees in your area thus slowly desensitizing your immune system to local pollens thereby decreasing your immune response to those pollens. Using raw honey is even more effective since the molecular structure isn’t damaged in the pasteurisation process.
Probably the biggest key to remember with seasonal allergies is that you need to get started early, before the season starts for optimal results. However, if your symptoms are already in full swing, then a stronger approach is needed and with proper guidance it is still possible to reduce the severity of your seasonal allergy-mediated symptoms.
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Dr. V is a Naturopathic Physician who graduated from the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine. Prior to her medical studies, she completed both a BSc and a MSc at the University of Alberta. She has a keen interest in chronic disease and environmental health. However, she loves receiving patients with all types of conditions (or even patients that want to optimize their health). Are you getting enough sleep?