As you sit down to read today’s Daily Dispatch, you may be feeling the itchy, stuffy, and sneezy symptoms of seasonal allergies or hay fever — particularly if you live in the north, where the summer season is soon ending. And as the warm weather begins to wind down, ragweed season begins to ramp up, much to the dismay of the 25 percent of adults who are allergic.
To help you sail through these late-summer allergies, I’ve put together a few helpful tips for prevention and relief.
My easy-to-follow strategies for battling allergies
While you’re indoors…
- Stay inside during peak times. As much as I advise getting outdoors year-round, one of the safest tricks to keep allergies in check is to stay indoors as much as possible during those days when pollen counts are highest.
Peak times for pollen dissemination are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Unfortunately, these are also the best times to get your vitamin D-producing sun exposure. For this reason, it’s especially important to make sure you’re taking 10,000 IU of liquid vitamin D daily.
- Close your windows and doors. This will keep indoor air clean inside your home. And if you have central air, consider adding a dehumidifier to keep air on the dry side. Just make sure to clean or change the air filters.
Speaking of which, portable and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can also help keep a room pollen-free. (Many portable vacuum cleaners now come with HEPA filters to keep things extra clean and free of pollen.)
If you don’t have central air, a high-efficiency window unit in your bedroom will help keep you allergy-free while sleeping at night.
While you’re outdoors…
As I mentioned, you should always try to spend at least 15 minutes a day outside in the sunshine to trigger vitamin D production in your skin. But when you have allergies, being outside for 15 minutes is enough to trigger symptoms.
So, if you can manage to go outside for a short stint, here are some more helpful tips:
- Rub a small amount of petroleum jelly under your nose to trap pollen.
- Wear sunglasses to keep wind from blowing pollen directly into your eyes.
- Wet a bandana and place it over your nose and mouth, tying it behind your ears to prevent breathing in pollen. (Or you can wear an actual hospital-grade filter mask or dust mask from your local hardware store.)
- If you’re working in a garden, cover up the rest of your body to keep pollen from collecting on you. Wash your clothing right away after coming back inside.
- Don’t hang your laundry outside to dry. Also, change your sheets and pillowcases frequently.
- Wash your hands and face regularly throughout the day — especially after you return inside. Fill your sink or a small basin with lukewarm water and add some sea salt. Then, submerge your face, up to your ears, in the sink. Blink several times and then blow air out through your nostrils. This technique will flush pollen away from your sinus cavity
In extreme cases, you can even take a quick shower and wash your hair once or twice a day. (But as I explained in the July 2018 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, you don’t want to routinely over-bathe throughout the year.)
There’s also a lot you can do from a dietary standpoint to keep your allergies in check…
Adopt an allergy-proof diet
Continue to follow a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Some types of produce even have natural antihistamine properties, including:
Also, make sure to cut out sugars. Instead, add some local honey to your daily regimen. Studies show eating local honey helps lessen your reaction to local pollens over time.
You may also want to limit dairy, which can contribute to mucus production.
Drinking hot herbal teas — such as ginger or licorice tea — with honey and lemon is also soothing for allergy sufferers. Make sure to steep the teas for at least eight minutes. These infusions will soothe congestion and itchiness since they counter respiratory tract inflammation.
If you can’t take a hot infusion with you, carry herbal cough drops or lozenges containing natural extracts of eucalyptus, licorice, menthol, and soothing herbs.
Another way you can put herbal remedies to work in your kitchen is by adding a few drops of essential oils, like eucalyptus, to a pot of steaming water over the stove. Then, turn off the heat and test the vapors over the pot with your hand.
When the temperature feels tolerable, put a small towel over your head, lean over the steaming pot, and breathe in deeply for a few minutes. This process traps the healing vapors under your hand-made “tent.” You can repeat this process several times a day. (An important side note: Avoid using essential oils internally, since they can be toxic.)
And that point brings to mind a more drastic solution to seasonal allergies…
Hop a plane, train, or boat
When all else fails, you can escape to another climate where pollen isn’t in season. For example, in Australia, it’s now just late-winter, so you won’t find summer pollens.
But you don’t have to go that far to get away. You can find relief in the dry desert, the mountains, or by the seashore.
I suggest driving to your destination to avoid getting on an airplane with respiratory congestion, which can be a painful and debilitating experience. Furthermore, flying puts you at high risk of catching a cold or flu, which can further tax your already vulnerable respiratory tract.