Spring showers bring May flowers and… sneezing, coughing, irritated eyes and sleeplessness for those with seasonal allergies. Studies estimate 30% of the population suffers from seasonal allergies, which can cause difficulty breathing and sleeping leading to fatigue, mood swings, and even depression. What’s more, pollen season seems to be getting longer and the pollen count getting stronger.
In the warm climate of San Diego, Palomar Health Allergist/Immunologist Dr. Maryam Zarei says allergies aren’t seasonal, they are year round. So, what can you do?
Dr. Zarei says battling allergies starts with boosting your immune system to build a solid foundation. She recommends following the five pillars of health which are:
• Whole food nutrition
• Moderate exercise
• 7-8 hours of sleep
• Stress management
• Community connectedness
Regarding nutrition, Dr. Zarei says, “one of my roles having done this (allergist) for 17 years is to be a food police for my patients.”
She recommends eating fruits and vegetables, which are natural remedies for allergies. Apples, for example, act as natural anti-histamines. In addition, Dr. Zarei says to increase your Omega 3 intake, which you can get from fish oil and flaxseeds, and consume fermented foods like sauerkraut and miso to build natural bacteria that protects against germs.
You should also increase your exposure to sunlight.
“The two things I always talk about, the vitamins you can’t go without are B12 and Vitamin D,” Dr. Zarei says.
It might seem easy in San Diego to get adequate sun but Dr. Zarei says 50% of San Diegans are Vitamin D deficient. (Note: sunscreen can block your body’s natural Vitamin D absorption.) She advises taking Vitamin D supplements.
For those who are allergic to dust mites wash your sheets weekly and protect your mattress and pillow with a special cover. To reduce allergens get a HEPA air cleaner, remove your shoes at the door and vacuum weekly.
One natural remedy myth Dr. Zarei says is ingesting bee pollen. It won’t help you fight pollen allergies.
The next least restrictive step before consulting a doctor is a nasal wash.
“Thirty percent of people who have allergies can start out with something as simple as washing out the pollen and taking out whatever is in your filter; your nose is your filter,” Dr. Zarei says. She suggests using products like Neti Pots and Neil Wash.
If that doesn’t work, you can try simple over-the-counter anti-histamines, such as Xyzal, Allegra, or Zyrtec. The next line of defense is nasal sprays, which may contain decongestants and steroids. If all of these remedies fail, it’s time to see a doctor.
An allergist can help confirm your suspicion, or lack thereof, of environmental allergies by performing allergy skin or blood tests. This is invaluable since only 30% of people have true allergies, and there are a number of other conditions that can mimic symptoms of hay fever.
To learn more, please visit palomarhealth.org.