You’re relieved winter is over and the days are getting longer, until you remember the ultimate caveat of springtime: allergy season.
Allergies plague 50 million Americans and their symptoms during this time of year can be frustrating to say the least. Another 26 million suffer from asthma, which can make bearing allergy season even more challenging.
To help combat these conditions, TV personality and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz offered some tips that can mitigate your body’s reaction to the changing seasons.
The link between asthma and allergies
“Allergies and asthma are different types of an immune response, but they’re cousins,” Dr. Oz said, adding that allergies are a common trigger of asthma.
“Once your immune system starts to turn on, it’s like turbocharging it or giving it high-octane fuel. Your immune system is built up and ready to go, so it gets tricked into overreacting,” he said, likening the reaction to a country with a big military it’s eager to use. “Asthma and allergies are the friendly fire.”
Asthma happens when the muscles that keep your airways the right size suddenly overreact, spasm and shrivel, Dr. Oz explained. Temperature changes and even exercise can trigger this cascade of effects, which traps air in your lungs so you’re unable to exhale. Cold temperatures and other weather events can also trigger a flare when the body closes its airways in an effort to keep the lungs warm.
The root of flare-ups
In some cases, asthma and allergies can work to make your symptoms of seasonal allergies worse.
“If you have another source of an allergy — let’s say seasonal allergen, like pollen or hay weed or whatever — now you start to create an additional reason for your already irritated immune system to overreact,” Dr. Oz said.
For that reason, people with allergies should identify their triggers — whether its pet dander, pollen, weather or anything else — and use strategies that are proven to help with allergy relief.
Dr. Oz suggests giving the following steps a try:
Keep your home clean
“The first thing to do is buy a vacuum and use it,” he said. “Make a schedule and, when you clean, get out of the house for an hour and let it settle.” Dr. Oz added that dust is a common allergen, so it’s also important to dust surfaces frequently.
Consider a neti pot
Available at convenience stores and online retailers, these devices use warm, sterilized water to help clear your nasal passageways. Dr. Oz suggests using one before bed: “Pollen stays up there, so when you go to sleep or it hangs up there, it continually irritates your immune system.”
Reach for probiotics
Preliminary research suggests probiotics can help manage allergy symptoms. These gut-friendly bacteria are in foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and Greek yogurt.
Exercise at night or indoors
That morning run might energize you for your day, but you won’t perform at your best when pollen counts are high. “Recognize that pollen is almost always worse in the morning, and over the course of the day will drop down,” he said. “If you can exercise in the evening or indoors, that’s better.”
Wash your hair and change your clothes before bed
“You can cart around a lot of allergens on clothing, and women in particular in your hair,” Dr. Oz said. “When you go to bed, your hair is all over your face. So if you’re going to wash your hair, wash it at night.”