Better living through nature
I’ve struggled with seasonal allergies for as long as I can remember, which isn’t surprising, considering I’ve lived in Kansas my whole life. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Kansas City and its surrounding areas rank number 41 on the list of “The Most Challenging Places to Live with Spring Allergies.” And we’re not alone—allergies and asthma affect one out of every four Americans. This season, however, has been my worst to date. To call it ‘hay fever’ would be an understatement.
Living in Kansas may not always be the easiest for allergy sufferers. The
Sunflower State ranks high in the list of "The Most Challenging Places To Live
With Spring Allergies." Photo by earlycj5/Courtesy Flickr
So, about a week ago, I had my first experience with allergy testing, where I spent 2 1/2 hours being poked and prodded with dozens of tiny needles all over my back. I left with about 50 small, itchy red dots, new prescriptions, and renewed hope that someday soon I would be able to breathe through my nose again.
No such luck. One week later, I’m still struggling with hay fever, which has led me to explore options other than medication.
First, though, let’s discuss the cause of seasonal allergies. Almost anything can trigger an allergic reaction; it simply depends on the individual. Last week, I found out that my seasonal allergies are caused by allergens like trees, grass and weeds. When the body is introduced to these types of allergens, it releases chemicals like histamines as a defense, which set off the symptoms associated with hay fever.
That’s why antihistamines are typically prescribed for seasonal allergy relief. According to the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, antihistamines do just what the name implies: inhibit histamine production.
When medication isn’t doing the trick, however, there are other options you can turn to:
• Neti pots (nasal irrigation): I’ve had quite a few people, peers and professors included, tell me that these genie lamp look-alikes actually work, and the experts seem to agree. In a study performed with patients from the University of California, San Diego, statistically significant improvement was noted in 23 of the 30 nasal symptoms studied. Here’s how they work: The neti pots are filled with warm water, or sometimes a saline solution, depending on your personal preference. Then, the liquid solution is poured into one nostril and comes out the other. It may sound gross, but the idea is that the mucus in the nose is thinned, making it easier to flush out. Here is a more detailed step-by-step video.
• Stinging nettles: This plant, when brewed as a tea, can help relieve itchy eyes and sneezing. So, it’s basically an antihistamine in non-medication form. It’s also high in nutrients, which can help fight against other sicknesses as well. There haven’t been many studies to test its effectiveness, but one study did find that it affects the inflammatory events that cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies. But beware—this plant lives up to its name and will cause severe skin irritation if you brush up against it.
• Eucalyptus: This herb is useful in a few different ways to help soothe a cough or get rid of congestion in your chest. It can be found in many different allergy-relieving products, including rubs, vapors and rinses that are available at your local drug store.
So, next time you’re suffering from seasonal allergies, before you break open the medicine cabinet, give one (or all) of these remedies a try, so you can get ditch the Kleenex boxes and get back outside.