At this beautiful time of year, all those blooming flowers and trees bring joy to so many, but less so for allergy sufferers. This spring, with the addition of the scourge of COVID-19, the seasonal allergy fight is even more of a challenge than usual. Even if you’re not bothered much by allergies, with every sniffle that comes along, it’s hard not to find yourself asking: is it allergies or COVID-19?
Though sniffles, sneezing, coughs may surface with both springtime allergies and COVID-19, with allergies it’s highly unlikely you’ll experience the more flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, chest pain and/or loss of taste or smell commonly associated with coronavirus. However, if you’re feeling off, it’s definitely worth a chat or video call with your doctor. Once you establish that allergies are your culprit – and keep in mind they can crop up at any age, even if you haven’t had a problem before – then it’s time to fight back without drugging yourself senseless.
To stand up to the springtime allergen onslaught in a healthier way, think defensively. Your mission: to help keep pollen, dust and mold out, and fight back 24/7 with healthy, pharma-free solutions:
1) Rise, shine and rinse.
Noses are excellent at trapping allergens, but for allergy sufferers, it can be helpful to frequently clear the gunk out when spring starts to bust out all over and clog you up. After your morning shower, towel off, then treat your nose to a rinse with a traditional neti pot and sterile saline solution, or an over-the-counter saline nasal spray. For a stronger gunk-clearing stream, you can also spritz your nasal passages with a sterile saline spray in aerosol form.
Whatever you do though, do not rinse with shower or tap water to avoid the possibility of dangerous infection.
2) Get your look together.
Time to get dressed, so make sure everything is fresh and clean, not used once or twice and ‘ready’ for the wash. Remember that fabrics are almost as good at catching airborne allergens as your nose is, so you’re going to want to keep clothes and bedding as clean as possible, particularly while everything is in flower.
A good rule of thumb: If you’ve spent more than a few minutes outdoors during the blooming season, change clothes as soon as you get home and put the used items in the laundry to be washed, to prevent tracking pollen into the house and onto your furniture. Also leave your shoes by the front door to keep allergens at bay.
Periodically, clean out the washing machine by running it empty, on the hottest wash-cycle setting, adding a capful of bleach to kill any mold that might be lurking. That should clear out pollen and allergens and lessen the chances of washing them back into your clothes and bedding.
Got work clothes? Get them to the dry cleaners – preferably one that uses green cleaning methods – as frequently as possible.
3) Make a clean break(fast).
If you do eat breakfast, think clean here too. A body that’s already straining to deal with common food allergens like gluten, dairy, and sugar isn’t going to be in any position to fend off springtime allergens. So, it’s up to you to go on the defense and keep the edible ones off your plate. And that goes double for processed foods which are, by their very nature, loaded with allergy-exacerbating chemicals, preservatives and ingredients.
Next, rethink what you want to eat in the morning. I recommend that you start the day right with Vitamin A, Vitamin C and quercetin-rich foods that will help tame the release of the histamines that make eyes and noses run, while fortifying your gut with prebiotic fiber. Cut up (preferably organic) yellow and green peppers, shallots, asparagus, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, red leaf lettuce – and enjoy chopped salad-style, or as a delicious base for your morning eggs. Add a scoop of any fermented veggie you like to the mix for an added allergy-fighting boost.
4) Hit the low-allergen road.
If you drive your car to work every day, start the season with a cabin air filter change to keep your ride as free of allergens as possible. Roll into the parking lot with windows rolled up and sunroof sealed. Got AC? Then use the ‘recirculate’ setting which draws fewer allergens and less pollen into your car’s interior.
5) Embrace the bandana.
Though there’s little to like about coronavirus, one slight silver lining is that it no longer looks strange to wear one – so tie one on whenever you leave home. For allergy sufferers – and particularly those who are also asthmatic and more vulnerable to poor coronavirus outcomes — masks provide a physical barrier to filter out pollen, mold and viruses. In addition, masks also tend to inhibit our natural tendency to touch runny noses and eyes, and accidently infect oneself with any number of viral invaders.
6) Rethink your morning (and afternoon) cup of joe.
Once you’re settled in at your desk and thoughts of a second cup of coffee starts to cross your mind, flip the switch, and think green tea instead. A hot cup of the stuff will still give you the lift you’re after but you’ll also get a bonus dose of antioxidants and, for some allergy sufferers, a reduction in symptoms.
Two more teas with superpowers: nettle tea and rooibos tea. Nettle tea is helpful for relieving itchy eyes, stuffy noses and coughs, and rooibos is a tasty herbal tea that’s a quercetin-rich, allergy-fighter – that’s also caffeine free.
Keep in mind however, not all herbal teas are good for seasonal allergy sufferers. For example, teas made with chamomile, milk thistle, wormwood, goldenseal, echinacea, and/or dandelion are all members of the ragweed family which can worsen allergy symptoms, so chose your teas wisely!
7) Keep a clear head with drug-free allergy-tamers.
Though I always advise getting as many nutrients as possible from the nutrient-rich foods you eat, if you need a little extra help to help battle springtime allergies, supplements are a great, non-drowsy, drug-free way of doing that. To help prevent springtime sneezes and sniffles from dragging you down, here are a few of my favorite allergy-fighters:
- Probiotics – to support gut health and tame allergic response, with help from a variety of lactobacilli and bifido-bacteria strains
- Bioflavonoids – which enhance the transport of vitamin C into our cells and help tame allergic response
- Quercetin – the plant nutrient that helps reduce the amount of histamine your body releases in response to allergens
- Nettle leaf – has been used for thousands of years as natural remedy for hay fever
- Tinofend – which helps significantly reduce sneezing and relieves runny and stuffy nose
- Vitamin C – supplies an extra antihistamine boost and overall immune support
- Bicarbonate Salts – help maintain normal histamine response
8) Chill out in the evening.
After a long day at the office, you’ll breathe a lot easier if you chill out once you get home. Not only should you shut the windows and turn the AC on keep pollen from settling in your bedroom but chill out mentally too by making some time for a few minutes of meditation. Turns out, chronically high stress levels can increase histamine and cortisol levels, which in turn drive up allergic response, worsening your symptoms. My advice? Meditate – don’t medicate – if you want to feel better this spring.