It’s almost Spring again and time to watch out for allergies and colds.
Spring brings all the beauty of our world, but it also brings with it allergies related to pollen from grass, trees, flowers and weeds (mold is another one to be watchful of). If you have seasonal allergies you will likely react to the pollen that is released in spring and with some people that just leads into nasty cold-like symptoms that go away, generally, in about 3-5 days.
Now although allergies and colds may seem similar, there are very specific differences to watch for.
What signs should I look for with a cold? Sore throat, sneezing, yellow/green mucus, mucus cough are the more common symptoms of a cold and not an allergy. Although you can get a tickle in your throat that would probably more indicate an allergy.
What signs should I look for with allergies? Itchy, watery eyes and nose; sneezing; nasal and ear congestion; scratchy throat; dark circles under eyes; post nasal drip; and ear/sinus itching. Some more rare indications are headaches, wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. If you are asthmatic, it is very important to keep yourself away from the things that may trigger an attack.
How can you deal with this? Well, if you are known to have these springtime allergies, and you take antihistamines, then you should probably start taking them before the pollen gets going. If you are using natural remedies, then it’s also wise to start taking steps before the season gets underway.
Things you might consider – stay indoors and run the air conditioner, and close your windows and doors to keep the pollen outside; pycnogenol and butterbur are two natural “antihistamines” to consider taking; each time you go outside – wash up to get rid of any lingering pollen in your hair, clothes, and skin, and leave your shoes at the door (or outside); wear a mask when you go outside to avoid breathing in any pollen; eat lots of fruits and vegetables to get natural vitamin C and other nutrients to help your body fight the histamines; use a netti pot or saline solution to help keep your nasal passages and sinuses clear; drink lots of fluids including water, juices, and non-alcoholic fluids to keep your body hydrated, as well drink hot tea, soup or broth (think steam) to help with breathing; keep our house clean using natural methods instead of chemicals that your body can react to – use natural cleaners with baking soda and vinegar (recipe link here – can be used on any surface); use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to catch the pollen and use a mask when cleaning and vacuum at least twice a week; if you have severe nasal congestion use a steam tent (really big bowl or pot of steamy hot water and a towel to cover your head – deep breath in the steam for 10-15 minutes); if you have a health care plan try acupuncture to help reduce symptoms; cover your mattress and pillows with zippered covers, and wash your bedding in hot water at least once a week during the pollen season; if you know you have a mold issue use a dehumidifier to reduce the moisture in your home to help reduce the risk of mold spores growing; if you have indoor plants – keep them to a minimum as soil increases the risk of molds accumulating in your home; DO NOT allow smoking in your home; if you can, get rid of rugs and carpets (hiding place for pollen and dust) also cloth drapes and Venetian blinds are dust catchers and should be removed or replaced with shades or shutters; get air purifiers to help clean the air in your home (we have 2 – one in our bedroom and one in our living area) that helps take the allergens out of the air. I know this is a long list of “things to do” but they are for your good health, especially if you suffer with allergies.
Healthline.com has a list (see below) for high histamine containing foods that can cause your body to become histamine intolerant. These are foods that should be avoided to help you avoid allergic reactions to them and the environment. Try avoiding these for about 30 days to see if it is what may be causing your problem(s):
Foods to avoid on a low-histamine diet
Histamine levels in food are difficult to quantify. Even in the same food product, like a piece of cheddar cheese, the histamine level can vary significantly depending on how long it’s been aged, its storage time, and whether it has any additives. Generally, foods that have been fermented have the highest level of histamine. Fresh foods have the lowest levels. There is also a theory that some foods, though not histamine-rich themselves, can trigger your cells to release histamine. These are known as histamine liberators. This theory, however, has not been proven scientifically.
The following foods contain a high level of histamine:
- fermented dairy products, such as cheese (especially aged), yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, and kefir
- fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi
- pickles or pickled veggies
- cured or fermented meats, such as sausages, salami, and fermented ham
- wine, beer, alcohol, and champagne
- fermented soy products such as tempeh, miso, soy sauce, and natto
- fermented grains, such as sourdough bread
- frozen, salted, or canned fish, such as sardines and tuna
- tomato ketchup
The following foods are suspected histamine liberators:
- citrus fruit, such as oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruit
- egg whites
- food additives (in processed foods and drinks), such as colorants, preservatives, stabilizers, and flavorings
If this doesn’t help with your symptoms, or your allergies seem to be severe it is recommended you see your health care team and get a referral to an allergist who can help you find out exactly what is causing your allergies (they may not be seasonal) and treat them appropriately. Some people need to have allergy shots to help them overcome severe allergies (I did for a very long time) and to help avoid having more severe reactions (asthma) to allergens. I know you may not want to hear this, but changing your diet to get rid of histamine causing foods is another way to help with allergies. I’ve all but gotten rid of most of them and it has made a huge difference in how my body reacts to the environment – without drugs (see the food list above).
If it’s a cold you think you have, check your symptoms and make sure that is what it is, then treat it appropriately. You can get OTC (over the counter) remedies, but again, natural is always better. It may take a bit longer, but is effective and doesn’t cause side effects! Things like honey and lemon for sore throat, drink lots of fluids, and eat chicken soup/broth. If your symptoms last more than a couple of weeks AT MOST, get in to see your health care team for assistance with getting a cure.
It is my hope that you do not have any of these issues and can get along in springtime without suffering. Happy Spring to you all.
Have a fantastic day and rest of your week.