Natural options can help with allergies

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Deb Prince

Spring has arrived in the mountains! Plants are coming to life, and the pollens and molds are making their presence known in what is referred to as “allergy season.” 

Just when we thought we had made it through the cold and flu season, similar symptoms are reappearing and we are looking for relief from the sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose. The key to managing allergy symptoms is knowing triggers which are often unique to each person. Some folks are more susceptible to developing allergic rhinitis than others, and a number of factors can increase one’s risk of developing this condition, including genetics, environmental factors, and other medical conditions. Additionally, certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking and exposure to air pollution, may also increase the risk of developing allergic rhinitis. 

Websites exist that update daily with information on local pollen counts. For example, the Asthma and Allergy Network tracks air quality by zip code: click here to find your forecast.

Currently in Franklin, tree pollen levels are high, with grasses yet to come. Using supplied information can help you determine your activity level according to pollen counts and wind conditions. For those who really suffer, wear a mask if you must be outside on high pollen count days.

NATURAL PRODUCTS are available at local health food stores – from teas to supplements to oils – that may provide relief to some people who suffer from seasonal allergies.

Pollen will come into the house on your hair, so wash your hair if you have been out in your flower bed. As you lay your head on your pillow, you would be breathing in the pollen you collected during the day; and yes, this means changing your pillow cases often. In fact, seasonal relief also involves basic housekeeping – dusting, vacuuming, and mopping. 

Individuals with a respiratory condition most likely have prescription inhalers and antihistamines to help decrease the severity of flare ups from the additional stress of seasonal allergies. But for those of us who simply need some relief, what can we do naturally?

I visited two local health food stores, Roomful of Nuts and Mountain Valley, to see what products they have available. I personally like nettle tea, paired with local honey. Although the use of honey to treat allergic rhinitis (runny nose) is controversial, a 2013 study from The National Institute of Health suggested that it is a complementary therapy nearly equal to the use of Loratadine, an antihistamine. 

Certain essential oils can relieve nasal congestion; either a few drops on a tissue and inhaled or the use of an inhaler stick is beneficial, especially for seasonal discomfort. I carry an Olbas inhaler, no prescription needed. 

Also, medicinal mushrooms, particularly Reishi mushrooms, have been studied for their effectiveness in helping reduce inflammation and allergic responses in the body, potentially alleviating allergy symptoms. Some people have experienced relief.

Finally, a healthy diet with probiotics will maintain gut health, which in turn strengthens your immune system and reduces your body’s response to allergens. 

Deb Prince has an active registered nurse license in the State of North Carolina and in May 2024 will celebrate a 40-year nursing career. She was also recently certified as a family herbalist.