By Dr. Sasha Marinaccio
Wednesday March 20th: the first day of Spring! Hurray! For those of us here in WNY, each year we anxiously look forward to this day, even if our wacky weather doesn’t promise Spring-like temperatures right away. But for 8% of the population, the nearness of Spring and Summer doesn’t equate to happiness. That’s because 8% of the population suffers from seasonal allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (3). For those folks the return of trees, flowers and green grass also means the return of allergy symptoms.
What are seasonal allergies? Also called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, these symptoms occur as a result of the body’s reaction to a foreign “invader.” These invaders, or allergens, are harmless substances that the body perceives as harmful. Common allergens during the Spring months include tree pollen, while Summer brings grasses and Fall brings ragweed (3). Many people experience relief of symptoms during the Winter; however, for some, Winter allergens can include mold, dust mites and pet dander.
When the body reacts to allergens, the immune system stimulates the production of many substances, one of which is called histamine. Histamine’s job is to cause inflammation and help the affected area rid itself of allergens (2). This inflammatory effect is what causes traditional allergy symptoms such as watery and itchy eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing. If histamine is produced within the skin, it can cause redness, swelling, itching and hives.
So what can you do if you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer? Avoidance of your trigger is difficult to do if you have outdoor allergies, as opposed to indoor allergies. You can however check for pollen counts in the weather forecast to plan accordingly, delegate symptom-causing yardwork, and avoid hanging clean laundry outside to dry (1). It’s impossible to completely avoid environmental allergens, so here are a few things you can do when symptoms strike:
- Get adjusted. Chiropractic adjustments to the cervical spine and craniofacial bones can help “unclog the plumbing” by allowing for increased drainage from the head.
- Perform nasal lavage. A Neti-pot or squeeze bottle can be tremendously helpful in clearing the nasal passages of allergens, keeping the mucous membranes moistened and clearing out excess mucous. Make sure you use sterile water in your irrigation solution and properly clean your device after use!
- Try Stinging Nettle. This herb has an anti-inflammatory effect and may reduce histamine production (4). It can be found in combination with other anti-inflammatory compounds such as quercetin, bromelain or vitamin C. Talk to your Chiropractor about a supplement that may be right for you.
- Use local honey. The pollens found in local honey, when used on a regular basis, may help to desensitize your body to your seasonal stressors.
- Use essential oils. Essential oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint, or more specific respiratory support blends, can be helpful in opening up the nasal passageways. Try diffusing or placing a drop of oil in the four corners of your shower for a breath of fresh air.