There’s nothing I like more than taking a leisurely stroll on a beautiful spring afternoon. Taking in the fragrance of the blossoming spring flowers and seeing the majestic scenery of the budding trees and colorful gardens can be quite therapeutic!
But many people don’t have the same luxury I do, because every time they step outside to enjoy Mother Nature, well, she doesn’t seem to reciprocate the love—especially at this time of year.
Springtime Equals Allergy Season
For an estimated 25 million Americans, the “beauty” of springtime just means sneezing, itchy eyes, runny noses, and scratchy throats.Spring allergies are typically associated with trees, grass, and weed pollen; airborne pollen can cause hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis.For allergy sufferers, it can be a bit more difficult to enjoy this weather when they experience cold-like symptoms and feel drowsy due to allergy medications.
Why Do I Get Allergies?
Allergies are the body’s reaction to particles that are foreign (allergens). When the body first encounters an allergen, the plasma cells release immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is an antibody specific to that allergen. IgE will attach itself to the surface of mast cells, which are numerous in surface tissues, such as the skin and nasal mucous membranes; this is where mediation of inflammatory responses occurs. The mast cells then release chemical mediators, such as histamine.When your body encounters a specific allergen for the second time, within minutes the mast cells activate and release a powerful dose of histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins; this will trigger the cascade of symptoms that you see so many times with allergies.
Top 5 Worst U.S. Cities for Allergies
Allergy sufferers, beware! If you’re trying to figure out why your allergies are so persistent, or if you’re thinking of making a move to another city, let’s first take a look at the five worst U.S. cities (starting with the worst at number one) for spring allergies in 2014. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranks cities by such factors as pollen count and usage of allergy medication:
1. Louisville, Kentucky
2. Memphis, Tennessee
3. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
5. Jackson, Mississippi
What Happens If My Allergy Symptoms Are Untreated?
Allergy symptoms are actually very similar to symptoms associated with the common cold, so it is vital that you monitor your symptoms. Below are the most common symptoms of an allergic reaction:
- Itching of the mouth, nose, throat, and eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Tearing eyes
- Dark circles under the eyes
If your symptoms last for two weeks or more, it can be considered allergic rhinitis, also known as inflammation of the nasal membranes. The condition may not be life-threatening, but complications can impair your quality of life in many ways. In most cases, untreated allergic rhinitis will lead to acute chronic sinusitis, apnea, sleep disturbance, and dental problems. You could even end up with an overbite, which is caused by excessive breathing through the mouth.
Your ear can be damaged as well if allergic rhinitis is left untreated; an infection can develop in the middle of the ear, leading to Eustachian tube dysfunction (dulled hearing). You can also develop asthma, which is more of a long-term effect.
Why a Healthy Diet Can Be Better Than Medicine
Generally, when allergy season approaches and the sniffles and sore eyes begin to set in, we automatically resort to medication. It is unfortunate that there really is no cure for allergies, but there are ways you can create a strong defense against them. Mike Tringale, Vice President of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, states that the best way to manage your allergies is to consult your doctor and get the best treatment you can. He also states that before you even think about medications, it is critical that you have a healthy diet in place well before allergy season approaches.
Studies have shown that having a diet high in antioxidants and omega-3 can keep seasonal allergies at bay or even reduce suffering. In 2007, a study found that children from the Greek island of Crete who participated in a Mediterranean diet, which included fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and nuts, were astoundingly less likely to develop allergy or asthma symptoms. As we know, allergies naturally cause inflammation, so finding foods that decrease inflammation is a good start.
10 Foods to Help Prevent Spring Allergies
In order to get you prepared for spring allergy season, here is a list of the top 10 foods and drinks that can help prevent and fight allergies, as well as ease their symptoms:
1. Grapes: When you consume grapes, studies have shown that you will have a decreased rate of wheezing and rhinitis.
2. Apples: Apple peels are rich in quercetin, which is a flavanoid that has natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin has been proven to prevent immune cells from releasing histamines, which as you now know is the compound that causes your allergic reaction.
3. Wheat bran: Bran acts as a bronchodilator and can help with proper lung function. It also has similar effects to an antihistamine and has been said to help ease asthma symptoms.
4. Hot tea: When you consume any kind of hot liquid, it automatically aids the nasal passage—the steam will help thin the mucus in your sinus nasal passage.
5. Salmon: Containing high volumes of omega-3 fatty acids, it has been proven to help improve allergies and asthma symptoms. Omega-3s contain anti-inflammatory properties and will help strengthen your immune system.
6. Spicy foods: You may not enjoy spicy foods, but they can stimulate the nasal passage to open up and relieve congestion.
7. Milk: According to research, there is a strong connection between vitamin D and its ability to control asthma and wheezing.
8. Broccoli: Like apples, broccoli contains quercetin and is also a rich source of sulforaphane, which is an anti-inflammatory compound.
9. Garlic: It may smell terrible, but that terrible smell can actually keep allergy symptoms away. It is a natural antibiotic that is usually known for fighting off infections, viruses, and allergies. Like apples and broccoli, it contains quercetin.
10. Nuts: A great on-the-go snack and an effective allergy-prevention weapon. Being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which as we know contain anti-inflammatory properties, nuts can decrease inflammation around the tissues of the nose and throat.
When you eat certain raw fruits or vegetables, your immune system can inadvertently mistake a plant protein for pollen; this can trigger an allergic reaction, particularly in the mouth or throat. It’s best to avoid the following foods during allergy season:
It may help to get an allergy test done to determine what exactly you’re allergic to. This will make it easier to determine the most suitable remedies, with regards to your diet. And remember to always consult your doctor before adding or removing certain foods from your diet.
Mercola, J., “Tips for Surviving Spring Allergy Season,” Mercola.com, April 20, 2015; http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/04/20/surviving-spring-allergies.aspx.
Kopman, J. et al., “Worst Spring Allergy Cities of 2014,” The Weather Channel web site, March 23, 2015; http://www.weather.com/health/news/worst-spring-allergy-cities-2014-20140709.
“Untreated allergic rhinitis can lead to serious problems,” Khaleej Times web site, January 25, 2014; http://khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?section=health&xfile=data/health/2014/January/health_January42.xml.
“7 Foods That Fight Springtime Allergies,” The Dr. Oz Show web site, May 17, 2013; http://www.doctoroz.com/article/7-foods-fight-springtime-allergies.
Borreli, L., “Eat To Beat Spring Allergies: 7 Best Foods To Stave Off Seasonal Allergy Symptoms,” Medical Daily web site, April 1, 2015; http://www.medicaldaily.com/eat-beat-spring-allergies-7-best-foods-stave-seasonal-allergy-symptoms-327718.
Handler, J., “Foods to avoid for pollen allergies,” Mother Nature Network web site, May 19, 2011; http://www.mnn.com/health/allergies/stories/foods-to-avoid-for-pollen-allergies.