Hay fever affects tens of millions of people in the United States and can be a minor irritant or a debilitating condition, depending on the severity. In some people, the allergic response to pollen is greater than others, and when it comes to those who already suffer from asthma, seasonal allergic rhinitis can be downright dangerous.
Is it pollen allergy you’ve experienced? Consider the common signs and symptoms before you make a diagnosis, especially since some of the ways to treat it depend on knowing that the actual cause of symptoms is pollen.
Why Does Pollen Cause Allergic Rhinitis?
The body responds negatively to unwanted elements that are introduced into any system. When pollen is breathed in, most people won’t have a problem. The body will produce a certain type of protein in the lining of the airways and lungs (the entire respiratory system) that protects the body from any irritation.
However, in people who have an allergic response, that protein is seen as a foreign and unwelcome adversary, and the body produces antibodies and histamine to combat this. In the process, these antibodies and histamine create the symptoms that are typical of hay fever:
- Runny and/or itchy nose that also causes sneezing
- Nasal congestion and sinus pressure, often causing additional facial pain and leading to headaches
- Itchy skin and/or skin rashes
- Coughing, usually caused by an itchy or scratchy throat
- Eyes that itch or water, or swelling and blue tinted skin around or under the eyes
- Less sensitivity to tastes and smells
- Increase in asthma related symptoms, especially during the growing season, like wheezing
The average person suffering from seasonal allergies experiences a combination of these symptoms, alerting them to the presence of an allergen in their system. In some situations, the culprit may be easy to identify based on recent contact, while other circumstances might require testing at a doctor’s office with a skin prick or blood test.
Types of Pollen
More pollen is in the air during growing season, which means that hay fever is more likely to strike in areas of the country and the world that have longer, lusher growing seasons. The most common types of pollen to cause issues come from grass, trees, and weeds, though these are certainly not the limitations of plant and pollen allergies.
Natural Remedies for Allergic Rhinitis
While it’s simple enough to obtain medications both over the counter and by prescription to help counter the effects of allergic rhinitis, there are often side effects involved with them. Sometimes, it’s not worth the added hassle and irritation to go to the doctor to get a prescription that gets rid of one ailment, only to cause another.
Treating seasonal allergies naturally isn’t difficult, and most of the time, the ingredients to remedies are already available in household products.
Take a look at some of the best natural treatments for hay fever.
- Fenugreek – The seeds of this plant make an excellent tea that will reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and sinuses, reducing the effect of irritation and congestion. Drinking at least two cups of the tea can assist in lessening symptoms as well as preventing progression into an upper respiratory infection (which can become bronchitis or pneumonia).
- Ginger – Long used in both ancient Eastern medicine as well as in home remedies in western civilization, ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and reduces symptoms of hay fever related to swelling, including sniffling and congestion.
- Garlic – Like many peppers and spices, garlic can clear your sinuses, relieving some of the pressure. However, garlic also has a natural antibiotic, which can help treat a potentially growing infection caused by allergic rhinitis, which will then reduce symptoms to a more manageable level.
- Local honey – Consider that allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy, in which a miniscule amount of the pollen that leads to an allergic reaction is injected into the patient to help desensitize them to the allergen. By consuming a small amount of local honey or a piece of honeycomb about the size of a quarter on a daily basis, you are ingesting small amounts of the local pollen as well, which can build up the immune system and decrease sensitivity naturally. It’s also much more pleasant!
- Fish oil – The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are natural inflammatory suppressants, especially blocking the inflammatory pathway that is affected in hay fever, thereby negating the ability to produce the excess swelling that irritates in seasonal allergic rhinitis.
- Nasal irrigation – Rinsing your sinuses with warm, salty water can reduce the symptoms of pollen allergies by removing both the offending pollen that might be trapped as well as some of the excess mucus. In addition, salt has properties that help dry up the overproduction of fluid as well as decreasing inflammation.
- Modified diet – While seasonal allergies are typically caused by airborne pollen, it’s important to know that some foods may be related to the pollen that’s causing the reaction. For example, ragweed is a common allergen, and zucchini, melons, and cucumber contain the same allergen, while wheat and tomatoes contain similarities to grass. Taking these out of your diet can improve your health and reduce sensitivity to airborne pollens.
- Nettle extract – This is a natural antihistamine, which can be taken in small doses, allowing for relief without drowsiness, as with many antihistamine medications. The best application is to add one tablespoon of nettle juice to any other juice (grape juice works well) and drink once a day.
- Butterbur – This has long been used to treat cough, allergies, and asthma. Using a boiled version of the herb as a tea, or finding extracts that are not taken from the raw herb can go a long way in relieving allergy symptoms (however, if the allergy is related to ragweed, this treatment should be avoided, since butterbur is in the ragweed family).
Seasonal allergic rhinitis is, at best, irritating enough to interfere with daily activities, especially during peak pollen season. First determining if the allergic response is to pollen and then to what kind of pollen is essential in the treatment of the symptoms. Since some treatments are geared toward specific allergens – or might contain one or more allergens – it’s crucial to know exactly which pollens cause the decline in health.
Treatment is especially vital for asthma patients to avoid complications with the underlying condition. Making sure to reduce the effects of hay fever can only improve the quality of life, leading to greater productivity and enjoyment of day to day activities.