By: Diana Vilibert March 2, 2016 Follow Diana at @dianavilibert
If you’re one of the 50 million North Americans who suffer from spring allergies, you may find yourself suffering a bit more this year. The amount of pollen in the air each spring has been getting worse in recent years due to climate change, and this year may bring the worst pollen season yet, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Luckily, you don’t have to resign yourself to living in a bubble for the next few months. Start addressing your allergies now with these tips:
Start your medication now. If you use an allergy medication, don’t wait until you’ve become one with a box of tissues to address your symptoms. “Although people think spring starts in April or May, spring allergy symptoms begin earlier, so start taking your prescription allergy medications two to three weeks before your symptoms normally appear,” the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology advises.
Leave house cleaning duty to someone else. Keeping your home clear of allergens requires cleaning…but cleaning actually releases a lot of the dust and allergens that have settled all over your home. When drawing up the chore chart, make sure the family member who doesn’t suffer from allergies is the one doing the dusting, sweeping and vacuuming. If you have to do it, wear a dust mask.
Don’t re-wear clothes. Make room in your schedule for extra laundry days—the clothes you wear outdoors bring home a ton of allergens during heavy pollen season. An investigation published in the journal Grana found that a single large T-shirt trapped seven million pollen grains in one day. “The high numbers of pollen and airborne particles trapped on fabrics may act as a primary source for indoor allergens particularly public indoor areas, e.g. the work environment where large numbers of people come in from the outdoors wearing the same clothes throughout the day,” the researchers write. “For severe allergy sufferers a frequent changing or washing of clothes will reduce the number of allergens on clothing. We found that washing the fabrics with water and a foaming wetting agent removed 99.9% of the pollen in the first washing.”
Shower at night—and don’t forget your hair. It’s not just your clothes and shoes that track in allergens—it’s your skin and hair, too. Make sure you aren’t bringing them to bed with you by showering before going to sleep…and lather up your locks while you’re at it. Products like gels and pastes may keep your ‘do perfect, but they’re also pollen magnets.
Drink more green tea. Though the effect wasn’t proven in humans yet, lab tests led by researchers in Japan found that EGCG, a compound in green tea, blocks a cell receptor involved in triggering and sustaining an allergic response. Those suffering from severe allergies probably won’t want to drop their allergy medication in favor of a hot cup just yet, but Hirofumi Tachibana, the study’s chief investigator, does say that “Green tea appears to be a promising source for effective anti-allergenic agents.”
And less alcohol. Sorry, the glass of wine won’t help you cope with your sniffles—it may make them worse. One study of almost six thousand women found that having more than two glasses of wine a day double the risk of allergy symptoms…even among those women who didn’t have allergies when the study started. The fermentation process produces histamine, the chemical that triggers allergy symptoms—and you may want to stay away from wine in particular, which contains sulfites—another trigger.
Load up on omega-3 fatty acids. Fish for dinner won’t cure you of your allergy symptoms, but it can help support a healthy immune system, decrease inflammation and reduce your susceptibility to allergies, according to research. An intake of two grams of EPA and DHA, two fatty acids found in oily fish and fish oil supplements is recommended to get the benefits—salmon, sardines, flaxseeds and walnuts are all good sources to get you started.