Steps can be taken to lessen the severity of spring allergies. The transition from winter to spring that brings sunshine and warm weather, is dreaded by more than 35 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies each year. Follow these tips to relieve some of the sneezing, watering, itchy, red eyes, wheezing and runny nose this spring:

  • Wash all bedding once a week to cut back on pollen accumulation
  • Vacuum twice a week
  • Limit throw rugs; if you do have them, make sure to wash them regularly
  • If possible, stay indoors from 5-10 a.m. when pollen counts are at their highest
  • Wear a mask, such as a painter’s mask, when mowing the lawn or gardening to avoid breathing in pollen.
  • Keep windows closed at night or while traveling by car to limit pollen and mold counts
  • Wash hands and face after prolonged periods outdoors
  • Visit the doctor at the beginning of the season to receive medicinal help

Washington State University Intercollegiate College of Nursing College of Nursing Assistant Dean Margaret Bruya recommends seeking medical advice at the beginning of allergy season. She stresses the importance of coming to appointments expecting to discuss your allergy history, including your history of exposure, prior allergens, which medications worked and which failed, and how long the symptoms typically last. 

Bruya recommends patients fully participate by taking any medication as directed, avoiding allergens and staying otherwise healthy, with a good diet, adequate sleep and exercise away from the allergen. This may include staying indoors an extra hour to avoid the high morning pollen counts.

Natural seasonal allergy relief is available. Once spring season returns so do allergies. Over-the-counter or prescription drugs are a traditional way to relieve symptoms. However, these solutions often do not take care of the actual problem. Natural health specialists recommend trying nontraditional remedies for fighting allergies first. Janis Burke, an instructor, certified aromatherapy practitioner and registered nurse at the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing Yakima campus, offers advice to relieve allergy symptoms for good.

Nutrients–Certain nutrients and herbs can be used to silence allergies. Naturopaths recommend grape-seed extract and a flavonoid compound known as quercetin. It is a plant that works as an anti-inflammatory agent, keeping lungs, nasal passages and eyes from swelling. It also serves as an antihistamine, preventing watery eyes and runny noses, all without the drowsiness or insomnia that drugstore remedies often cause (Alive: Canadian Journal of Health and Nutritions, 2004).  It’s concentrated with onions, garlic, cayenne, apples and tea. In supplement form, quercetin and grape-seed extract can be extremely helpful. They are both especially abundant in red wine. The nutrients are even more affective when taken in conjunction with vitamin C (WebMD, 2004). Experts recommend taking the grape-seed extract most of the year and increasing the dose with quercetin near allergy season.

Diet–Cutting back or avoiding foods such as chocolate, corn, dairy, sugar and wheat can make a significant difference. These common allergens overload the immune system and make people more reactive to other allergens they encounter (Natural Health, 2003).

Acupuncture–Acupuncture is becoming an increasingly popular natural remedy. Millions of Americans have noticed significant improvement in their allergies when they chose acupuncture for treatment.  (WebMD, 2003)

Aromatherapy—Burke suggests aromatherapy as a treatment to alleviate allergy symptoms. Try a drop or two of natural essential oils on a tissue or in warm water; it can be inhaled, or combine it with olive oil and massage on the chest or under the nose.  Eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus) and peppermint (mentha piperita) contain menthol, which can open sinuses.  But be aware that peppermint is a stimulant and should not be used by those with high blood pressure or with heart problems. Frankincense (boswellia carterii) is great for calming a chest cough and can also work as a decongestant and immune stimulant.

Distilled Water and Salt for Sinuses—Burke recommends an easy natural mixture for sinus relief. Fill a clean quart jar with distilled water and add one teaspoon of noniodized salt and one teaspoon of baking soda. Mix well and warm the mixture in the microwave for one minute (so it’s not so cold). Using an infant bulb syringe, stand over a sink, hold your head at a 45-degree angle and irrigate each nostril intermittently using the entire quart mixture. Repeat two times per day to help keep sinuses clear.