Spring brings nicer weather and longer days. Unfortunately, for many people spring also means allergies. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you are probably getting ready for a few months of sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Luckily, there are some natural remedies for seasonal allergies that can give you the allergy relief you are looking for.
We will cover the causes of seasonal allergies, some ways you can help prevent exposure, and 8 natural remedies for seasonal allergies.
When is Allergy Season?
Seasonal allergies can bring ruin to an otherwise lovely day. Even minor allergies can flare-up during the peak allergy season. And its not just the allergies. The nagging discomfort of seasonal allergies can wear down your immune system leaving you exposed to more severe colds and flu.
The good news about seasonal allergies is that for most people, they are seasonal. The bad news is that depending on where you live and what you are allergic to, seasonal allergies can last for most of the year. In general, allergy season is from March through September. But we will get into how and why you may experience allergy symptoms at different times throughout the year.
When Does Allergy Season Start?
We tend to think of spring as being allergy season. But spring isn’t really the beginning. Seasonal allergies can start in late winter, before you even notice the tulips. This is because many types of trees release pollen well before the plants and shrubs begin to bloom. We will get into the pollen and the other types of allergens in the next section.
How Long do Seasonal Allergies Last?
If you are allergic to tree pollen and weed pollen, you know the answer all too well. If you have summer allergies, then you may also feel like the season lasts longer than it should.
The reality is that seasonal allergies can happen any time trees, grasses, or weeds are in bloom. Because these different plants bloom at different times, some type of pollen is in the air almost year-round. How long seasonal allergies last depends on what specific allergies you have. Luckily for you, you can use our natural remedies for seasonal allergies year-round.
If you are only allergic to one type of pollen, your allergy season may be 2-3 months long, depending on where you live. If you are allergic to both tree and grass pollen, seasonal allergies may last 3-4 months. Those unlucky enough to be allergic to tree, grass, and weed pollen, may have seasonal allergies from March through September, or up to 7 months.
No matter how long your seasonal allergies may last, you can find relief with our 8 natural remedies for seasonal allergies. First, lets take a closer look at other factors that influence your allergies.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
During the late winter and early spring, the air suddenly fills with tree pollen grains. When your immune system encounters pollen grains, it may trigger an overreaction. If you are allergic, it means your immune system overreacts to the perceived threat brought on by pollens. When this happens, chemicals like histamine and leukotrienes are released, flooding your bloodstream.
These chemicals can inflame the sensitive linings of your nasal passages and sinuses. Other areas where capillaries are close to the surface of your skin can also be affected, like eyelids and inner ears. This is why you feel itchy and sore. It is also why you may sneeze and have red, watery eyes.
The inflammation response and resulting congestion is by design. The symptoms are uncomfortable to be sure. But they are meant to protect you by keeping the allergens out of your body or helping to expel them. The “stuffy” nose keeps you from breathing in more pollen. Your sneezing is forcing out the substances causing the immune response.
Our natural remedies for seasonal allergies were all selected for their anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine, and/or their immune-boosting properties.
The Different Types of Allergens
Tree pollen is the fist to show up. In some parts of the country, trees will bloom in late winter. Grass and weeds are the next to bloom. They can release pollen for several months. Grass pollen is highest in late spring and through the summer. Weed pollen follows, in late summer through early autumn.
High winds can also stir up other irritants like dust and mold. So you can be exposed to allergens even when there is very little in bloom.
One of the most common seasonal allergies is to a weed called ragweed. Ragweed (Ambrosia) is a group of flowering plants in the Astor (Asteraceae) family. It is an invasive weed that grows almost everywhere in the United States, but particularly in the east, midwest, and southwest.
Ragweed pollen allergies are very common. The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America reports that 26% of the population is allergic to ragweed. Ragweed is responsible for almost half of the cases of hay fever (Allergic Rhinitis) every year. The worst time of year for ragweed is early August to mid-October.
Mold can also cause seasonal allergies in some people. Mold can happen any time of year, but is more prone in warm, humid climates.
How To Treat Seasonal Allergies
Most people with seasonal allergies can find temporary relief with a variety of effective over-the-counter (OTC)drugs. In recent years, some of the more effective prescription drugs have been made available OTC. But with any drug there are still a variety of side effects. And no one enjoys having to pop pills to get through the day without a sneezing fit or red, itchy eyes. So, before we get to our eight natural remedies for seasonal allergies, lets look at some ways to limit exposure.
Tips to Help Reduce Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Unfortunately, there is no cure-all for seasonal allergies. You can ease your seasonal allergy symptoms with OTC drugs or with our natural remedies for seasonal allergies, but you won’t be able to cure them. So the best way to help your seasonal allergies is to avoid the worst causes. Now that you know what causes seasonal allergies, you can use these tips to protect yourself.
- Monitor local weather reports. Local weather will help you know what conditions may make pollen, dust, or mold more active. High winds, hot days and cool nights, and humidity will all increase pollen in the air. Many weather services also publish regular pollen forecasts. Plan your outside time accordingly. Check your local pollen now, from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
- Keep your house closed. During windy days and peak pollen days, keep your doors and windows of your car and house closed. The less you are exposed to pollen, the less severe your allergic response.
- Shower & wash. After exposure to pollen from working or playing outside, immediately take a shower and wash your hair. You want to remove all of the pollen from your body to prevent a reaction and to keep your home, bedding, and furniture clear.
- Wear a mask. If you have to be outside on a high pollen day, wear a mask. Wearing a pollen-rated filtered mask while working in the yard or mowing the lawn can help prevent more severe allergy attacks.
- Air filters. A compact micro-filtered air filtration machine in your bedroom may help keep your room free of pollen and other allergens. If you are getting your 8 hours of sleep (you should be!) that’s 1/3 of your day that can be pollen free.
- Try our natural remedies for seasonal allergies (see below)
Seasonal Allergy Drugs & Side Effects
The active ingredients in OTC allergy drugs are a class of chemicals called antihistamines. The challenge with antihistamines is that they all have side effects.
One of the most troubling side-effects of antihistamines is the sedative effects. The chemicals are designed to suppress your immune response, which is effective in reducing symptoms. Unfortunately, these chemicals also pass into your central nervous system resulting in drowsiness.
Extreme drowsiness in the middle of the day doesn’t work for most people. Which is part of why our natural remedies for seasonal allergies is a great way to avoid the side-effects of OTC drugs.
Some newer OTC labels use chemicals designed to reduce or eliminate the typical drowsiness associated with most antihistamines. Interestingly, some people have an inverse reaction and experience nervousness and agitation. Even so, the newer drugs have far fewer side effects.
If the idea of ingesting chemicals every day is off-putting, the following natural remedies for seasonal allergies may help you limit – or even avoid altogether, the need for drugs throughout allergy season.
8 Natural Remedies for Seasonal Allergies
We’ve compiled a list of eight natural remedies for seasonal allergies. You can apply these individually or as part of a more comprehensive approach.
If you’ve ever had the displeasure of running into these you will undoubtedly find it hard to believe they offer a myriad of nutritional and medicinal benefits.
The same tiny barbs laced with the chemicals that cause the stinging and burning skin can be broken down and absorbed by the body, resulting in a potent analgesic (pain relief) and anti-inflammatory botanical.
Stinging nettle leaves and stems possess anti-inflammatory properties. Stinging nettle has long been used to treat arthritis, skin conditions such as eczema, as well as anemia and gout. In medieval Europe, it was used as a diuretic and to treat joint pain.
Scientists are unsure of exactly how stinging nettle works but many believe that it may reduce the amount of histamine the body releases in response to an allergen as well as inhibit the inflammation response. Some chemicals in nettles are also known to interfere (inhibit) how the body transmits pain signals.
For allergies, nettles can be taken internally as dried herbs in tablet forms but can also be taken via infusion.
Homemade Nettle Infusion for Seasonal Allergies
- 1 oz of dried nettles
- 1 quart of boiling water
Place nettles into a jar or glass container. Cover with boiling water and let sit for 4 hours to overnight. Strain and drink. For additional flavor, add a tsp of local, raw organic honey. Explore more about the health benefits of nettle here.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains. We regularly ingest quercetin as a part of many whole foods we eat.
Foods high in quercetin include capers, apples, onions, buckwheat, kale, asparagus, tomatoes, broccoli, and berries. Flavoniods are what give flowers and fruits their vibrant colors as well as what constitute the many healthy benefits. These natural antioxidants are anti-inflammatory and may offer protection against cancer and heart disease. Some studies also indicate they may have anti-aging properties.
Researchers believe that quercetin affects mast cells. Mast cells are responsible for releasing the chemical histamine. Histamine is one of the chemicals that causes allergy symptoms. So quercetin reduces the amount of histamine released when triggered by allergens.
There is, however, conflicting research relating to its effectiveness. Some people find it helps, others not so much. For optimal results, recommended dosage usually follows a prolonged (30+ days), preventative protocol that commences before symptoms appear.
To increase your quercetin intake, it is widely available in supplement form.
The mother of all vitamins, Vitamin C, has too many functions to list. When it comes to allergies, Vitamin C can help reduce symptoms as well as boost your immune system.
Typically, your vitamin C requirements vary widely based on the amount of stress on your body. Allergies stress your body. So it is a good idea to supplement with vitamin C when you are suffering from allergies.
Vitamin C is an immune-boosting antioxidant. But it also breaks down the chemical structure of histamine, resulting in lower histamine levels in the bloodstream, which may prevent the onset or reduce the symptoms of allergies.
The benefits of cayenne pepper are numerous. Cayenne aids digestion, reduces intestinal gas, cures diarrhea and is a natural remedy for cramps. It is also used for heart and vascular health. Cayenne improves poor circulation, reverses blood clotting, and lowers cholesterol.
The fruit of the cayenne plant contains a chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin is the active phytochemical in hot peppers. When ingested, capsaicin can help break-up congestion, desensitize mucous membranes making them less sensitive to irritants and reduce inflammation.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Since allergies are an immune response, one of the best ways to reduce the exaggerated immune response is to strengthen your immune system. According to some studies, 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. Gut health is essential for immune system health.
Apple cider vinegar is a powerful gut healer and immune booster. It helps to promote the growth of “friendly” bacteria (probiotics) in the gut. Apple cider vinegar is also rich in potassium and magnesium. Researchers have linked seasonal allergies with a deficiency of both these minerals.
Apple cider vinegar is beneficial in many ways. Among other things, apple cider vinegar helps ease sinus, bronchial, and respiratory problems. It can help to soothe the lungs and bronchial walls and to break down phlegm. Add a tablespoon to a glass of water or tea and drink 1 to 3 times daily.
Probiotics for Seasonal Allergies
Hildegard of Bingen believed that good health is grounded in the digestive system. Allergies are no exception. Probiotics are essential for gut health and immune health. Without a proper balance of beneficial bacteria growing and thriving in the digestive system, “bad” bacteria can take over and impair your immune system (among other detrimental things.)
When allergies are putting your immune system under duress, your digestive health is even more important. In fact, many researchers believe that most allergies can be traced to gut health, one-way or another.
If you regularly suffer from allergies such as hay fever then you probably also get sick more often. Gut health should be a year-round goal. But if you haven’t started yet, you should consider incorporating a probiotic regimen during allergy season to help your body do what it is designed to do: keep you healthy.
Many health and wellness advocates believe that regularly consuming honey produced in your local area helps build-up immunity against the pollens that cause your allergy symptoms. Many others, however, believe this to be a myth.
Research has yet to confirm but many anecdotal reports indicate that people may experience reduced seasonal allergy symptoms by regularly consuming local, raw, organic honey. In any case, it is a sweet way to try.
Neti Pot for Seasonal Allergies
A neti pot is a small teapot-like vessel with a spout. You use the neti pot to flush your sinus cavity with a PH balanced saline solution. This helps clear irritants and allergens as well as soothe inflamed tissue. It’s not for everyone. But if you can overcome the initial awkwardness, it can be a great way to reduce exposure to allergens and help your body recover.
Neti pots are available at most health food outlets and drug stores. They usually include instructions as well as the mineral solution you will need to mix with water.
Find more on holistic allergy remedies inspired by Hildegard here.