Are you suffering from seasonal allergies or the aptly named hay fever? If you know the misery of constantly sneezing, reaching for a tissue to address that runny nose, and perpetually watery eyes, then chances are, you’re affected by allergies. With over-the-counter medications coming in plastic bottles and nasal sprays linked to addiction, it can feel like there aren’t many zero-waste and natural options for zero-wasters suffering from symptoms of allergies. Don’t get discouraged — there are plenty of natural remedies for allergies that require no plastic and no addiction. How’s that for a compromise?!
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
So many different factors can contribute to allergies or seasonal allergies. You might be agitated by dust mites, pollen, pet dander, ragweed, sagebrush; these are called allergens, meaning they can incite allergies. These allergens are tiny particles released by weeds, trees, and grasses and depending on which allergens affect you, they tend to be the worst from January to April, April to July, and August to December. They can make us sneeze, cause our eyes to water, and essentially cast our entire body into feeling flu-like symptoms (although, usually without the quintessential muscle ache associated with the flu or a virus).
Did you know 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from allergies? That accounts for about 50 to 60 million people affected by the above mentioned allergens. You can also be allergic to mold spores, insect stings, food, and medications, but those aren’t considered seasonal.
When Is the Worst Time for Allergies?
It depends on the allergen. You can get tested at the allergist, who will poke your forearm for different allergens. Depending on your reaction to each of the allergens, the allergist can diagnose you with allergies of pet dander, various foods, grass, and more.
In areas that don’t really have a cold winter — think Florida, Gulf Coast to California — the grass grows in winter and early spring, releasing pollen so that it can grow and spread. According to Weatherbug, if you are allergic to pollen and live in areas affected by this wintertime and early springtime growth, from January to early April can be the worst time of year.
From April to July, tree pollen is the main allergen affecting the northern Plains, Great Lakes, and New England. However, if you live in the Southwest — Arizona, California, Texas — allergens are typically more dormant during this part of the year. You can thank the hot temperatures for that!
Then from August to December, ragweed comes to rage havoc across the U.S. Not sure what ragweed is? It’s a flowering plant that is typically found close to riverbanks and unfortunately, it is the number one allergen we all struggle combating. In fact, three-fourths of all allergy-sufferers are allergic to ragweed. In August, ragweed starts to make people sneeze — usually beginning its reign in the Southwest — then makes its way north and west. Sadly, we don’t get a ragweed reprieve until the snow comes and temps drop into the 20s.
What Are Some Natural Ways to Combat Allergies?
Now that you know all about allergies, the leading allergens, and when is the worst time for seasonal allergies, you’re probably wondering what you can do or take in order to mitigate the symptoms. It’s important to note that though this isn’t always plausible, the best way to avoid suffering from allergies is to avoid the allergens that cause your symptoms. Of course, if it’s ragweed or pollen, that can be difficult. After all, we still have to go outside even when the pollen’s bad. Below are some at-home, natural remedies for allergies.
Papaya and pineapple: Fruits like papaya and pineapple feature an enzyme called bromelain that improves breathing and reduces swelling. You can buy bromelain over the counter but if you prefer to do it the zero-waste way, you can eat papaya and pineapple, both rich sources of the enzyme, and then compost the food scraps.
Honey: While mostly anecdotal evidence is the thing that keeps this concept alive, there isn’t much scientific evidence to support the idea that locally sourced honey can aid allergy symptoms. However, many people have said it works for them as a prevention method and have found that over time, exposure to local honey reduces their reactions to local allergens.
Spirulina: Throw some of that bright blue stuff in your morning smoothie if you suffer from allergies! A 2015 study found that spirulina, which is a blue-green algae cultivated worldwide, exhibits “antiallergic protective effects” toward allergic rhinitis. In layman’s terms, it reduces allergy symptoms.
Essential oils: Multiple studies have found that essential oils can reduce the symptoms of allergies. Peppermint, eucalyptus, and frankincense have all been proven to treat allergies either by being diffused into the air or applied topically. Peppermint can treat the anti-inflammatory effects of bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis, while eucalyptus is known for combating dust mites. (Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to your wash!) Frankincense oil can help prevent and reduce symptoms associated with perennial allergic rhinitis, according to a 2016 study.
Broccoli, cauliflower, green tea, and citrus: What could all these foods have in common? Quercetin, a plant flavanol from the flavonoid group of polyphenols, is a natural healer that stabilizes the release of histamines associated with an allergic reaction. While broccoli, cauliflower, green tea, and citrus fruits are high in quercetin, you can also find it in red onions, grains, apples, and kale, as quercetin is the element that makes these foods have a bitter taste.
Vitamin C: We all know the health benefits of vitamin C and probably even take a dose or two in the fall or wintertime to maintain our health and keep colds and the flu at bay. But did you know taking 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily can also help against allergies? Vitamin C can reduce histamine levels and while you can take it in a pill or gummy vitamin form, you can also find it naturally in citrus fruits, Kakadu plums, chili peppers, sweet yellow peppers, blackcurrants, kale, and broccoli.
Other Natural Remedies For Allergies
Some people swear by alternative natural methods such as acupuncture, saline nasal irrigation, HEPA filters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and taking probiotics to help their allergies. As far as which one is the best, it’s totally up to you and your preference. It also depends on the particular allergens that cause your allergies to flare.
More than 23 studies have linked taking daily probiotics to fighting off allergic rhinitis and since air conditioners and dehumidifiers are effective at removing excess moisture from the air, they can stop mildew and mold—two known allergens — from growing and thriving indoors. If pollen, dust, and pet dander are your allergens of choice, HEPA filters (known as high-efficiency particulate air filters) like the Hot+Cool Purifier from Dyson can reduce these allergens indoors.
While seasonal allergies are somewhat normal depending on the allergen levels and time of year, some allergy symptoms are serious. If you experience trouble breathing, lung tightness, chest pain, fainting, rash, vomiting, dizziness, or a change in blood pressure, you should consult a doctor immediately instead of trying out a natural remedy. Always consult a professional before trying a new medication or at-home remedy for allergies.