Ah Spring! Don’t you just love this time of year? The days are getting longer, there is the hint of warmth in the air and the smell of fresh blooms. Everything seems just a little bit better… unless you are one of the many who suffer from the allergies of spring and summer.
Hayfever, or “seasonal allergic rhinitis” to give it a technical name, can be very debilitating. It is a hypersensitivity reaction (i.e. an overreaction of the immune system resulting in the production of excess histamine) to pollen or dust and can result in a variety of symptoms including: sneezing, blocked or runny nose, headache and itchy or watery eyes, ears or throat. It can also interfere with your sleep and leave you feeling wrung out and exhausted.
Hayfever can occur at any time of the year but is most common during spring and early summer when pollen counts are at their highest.
If you suffer from hayfever there are two aspects to focus on. Firstly, try to reduce your exposure to the pollens that trigger your symptoms. No exposure = no symptoms. Then secondly, if you are exposed (and inevitably, you will be at some point) there are a range of natural supplements you can use to dampen your immune system’s reaction to the exposure.
How to minimise pollen or dust exposure
- stay indoors (as much as you can) on windy days and keep windows shut
- keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water to help keep the mucous membranes of your nose, throat and respiratory tract moist
- avoid hanging the washing outside on days when pollen count is particularly high (this will prevent pollen settling on clothes and then being brought into the house)
- if you’ve been outside, wash your face and hands when you come in and change your clothes
- keep floors and surfaces as dust-free as possible (using a damp cloth)
- use steam inhalation (with a little eucalyptus oil) to sooth irritated nasal passages
How to reduce your hayfever symptoms naturally
Nutritional and mineral supplements can help to dampen the immune response and reduce inflammation. Try one or more of the following:
- Zinc and vitamin A to maintain healthy mucosa
- vitamin C and bioflavonoids such as quercetin to help reduce histamine
- omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in oily fish to reduce inflammation
In cases where hayfever is significant it may be difficult to get sufficient intake of these nutrients through the diet. High doses are sometimes required and these are best prescribed by a naturopath or someone trained in nutritional medicine.
Herbs are also wonderful for reducing allergic reactions and drying up those runny noses and watery eyes. I often prescribe them in conjunction with nutritional remedies.
As a naturopath trained in herbal medicine, I use a variety of herbs in a formula tailored to your exact symptoms. These might include Sambuccus nigra, Euphrasia officinalis, Hydrastis canadensis and Albizia lebbek amongst others. They can be prescribed in tablet, liquid and/or in the form of a tea.
Dietary changes or working on the health and function of your liver can improve the way your body responds to allergens and help clear them out of your system.
Spring doesn’t have to be the season of sneezes. There’s lots you can do and you’ll get the best results if you work with a qualified herbalist or naturopath who can take a whole-of-body approach to your health.