Most of us have a love-hate relationship with spring, am I right? The season brings some of the very best weather of the year to be outdoors. Whatever your hobbies are, the soft, cool breeze coupled with warm sunshine motivate us to take time to enjoy outdoor actives and even invite friends to join. For me, flying remote controlled gliders is my go-to spring pastime. All of this is good and wonderful…but then there’s the flip side of spring: allergies.
Allergies and springtime
Allergies can be caused by many different pollens throughout the year, but springtime marks an increase in blooming for the spring growing season. Grasses, flowers, various weeds, and trees produce billions of pollen spores per plant; thus, many of us have one or more pollens that our bodies choose to treat as allergens.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that 8.2% and 8.4% of adults and children experience hay fever yearly. Pollen-based allergies aren’t the sole cause of hay fever, but sadly household pets can be an initiator of hay fever. Various molds and dust mites complete the gamut of possible allergens.
What’s going on?
Our immune systems are the heroes of our body’s defense system. The immune system is one of the most complex systems in our bodies. It protects the body from infections by destroying foreign bacteria, viruses, and harmful environmental substances. When any of our own cells become ill and malfunction, namely cancerous cells, our immune system works to eliminate these abnormal cells.
Sometimes, when pollen enters our bodies by way of our (through our respiratory tract, our immune system reacts to the pollen, treating the pollen like a serious invader. Chemicals known as histamine are released to cause inflammation, which is what causes our allergy symptoms.
Symptoms of allergies:
• A runny nose,
• Nasal congestion,
• Watery, or itchy eyes
• Also: throat irritation, fatigue, headache, hives or rash, asthma attacks.
These symptoms can really make everyday activities such as work, recreation, and social life a hassle to enjoy. More serious seasonal allergies can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma; therefore, avoiding these allergy-caused attacks is very important. Everyone who suffers from allergies can attest to how frustrating and even debilitating the symptoms are, but there are ways to alleviate and avoid these allergens.
Weekly yardwork for me is a major chore during allergy season and being able to narrow down what causes my immune system to erratically react was step one of my path to relief. Grass clippings were my allergy trigger. Wearing a mask during yard work did wonders, it helps to keep the dust and pollen outside of our respiratory tract by blocking the entrance of pollen to the nose and mouth. After I finish work I make sure to not bring any outside pollen on my clothes. During the summer, I make sure to jog in the evening when temperatures are slightly cooler and the pollen count is down, unlike the morning when pollen is at its peak.
Tips for controlling your allergies:
• Stay hydrated
• Shower after outdoor activity or work
• Rid allergens from your home: dust, pet dandruff, and mold
• Close doors and windows, especially during mornings
• Limit dairy intake; (dairy promotes mucus production)
• Limit sugar intake; (can cause inflammation)
Being aware of how dairy and sugar can affect my immune system and consequently, my allergies helped me to avoid hives during allergy season. Direct prevention, such as wearing masks, taking medication, and other steps helped limit my allergies, but nothing compared with what resulted from lowering my sugar intake and removing dairy from my diet. Normal symptoms like congested sinuses and watery eyes were completely eliminated but most important was the disappearance of the hives that used to appear on my skin every morning.
The dairy connection to allergies
Diary, such as milk and cheese can cause increased mucus production; while some studies argue that milk and dairy do not promote mucus production, other studies have prompted doctors to suggest to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to avoid dairy. The reasoning given for avoiding dairy in COPD patients is that the dairy causes increased mucus production and that because the lungs of COPD patients are unable to remove extra mucus, dairy should be avoided. There are some differing opinions regarding dairy increasing mucus production, but for me personally, no longer eating milk and cheese helped reduce my allergy symptoms.
The Lung Institute has provided details about increased mucus production for COPD patients that can be helpful for those who have allergies with elevated mucus production as a symptom.
One point about dairy for the lung patient was given,
“During flare-ups, people with lung disease often experience an increase in mucus. As an alternative, try almond or soy milk.”
Dairy products to avoid:
• Ice cream
Give it a try. Stop rubbing your nose, wiping at your eyes, and clearing your throat, and get rid of the above items in your fridge instead. It could be your saving grace this season.