By Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RD
If watery eyes and sneezing are surefire signals that spring has arrived, you're not alone. An estimated 35 million American adults suffer from seasonal allergies, and for many the season that brings budding trees and blooming flowers can also bring the worst symptoms. And while you may already be armed with your drug of choice (Allegra recently joined Claritin and Zyrtec as an over-the-counter option), there are other measures to keep in mind to help you breathe easy. Read on for four additional ways to get the best of your springtime sniffles.
If outdoor running, biking, walking, or any other activity is how you get your exercise, you might want to consider moving your activity indoors so you're exposed to fewer outdoor allergens throughout the day. Instead, try out a Zumba DVD, short-term gym membership or a yoga class. And if you really need to workout in fresh air, do so when pollen counts are not at their peak; check www.pollen.com for up-to-date levels in your zip code.
The ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine practice is extremely helpful in treating allergy symptoms. "Acupuncture and herbs can help control the overproduction of histamines that cause allergy symptoms and strengthen immune function," says Charles Peri, OMD, a California-based acupuncturist and MedHelp.org expert. If you do take this route, you can expect twice-a-week treatments for four to six months, possibly complemented by herb supplements.
While some doctors recommend using a saline nasal spray to help thin nasal secretions, a study from the University of Michigan Health System found that rinsing your nasal passages out with salt water is even more effective at relieving symptoms. You can use a Neti pot, a small teapot-like device available at most drug stores, to flush out your sinuses. Follow package instructions, or ask your doctor how to use it safely.
Switch Up Shower Time
Wash your hair before you hit the hay — your luscious locks can collect pollen and other allergens throughout the day. Showering in the evening rather than the morning means you're exposed to fewer irritants while you sleep.
Rachel is a New York City-based nutrition writer, educator and counselor.
Published April 5, 2011.