Am I Sick or is it Allergies?
While April showers (and apparently snow these days), bring May flowers, they also bring sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes. While we of course have had other things on our mind, allergy season has snuck up on us. With the concerns surrounding COVID-19 right now, any sneeze or cough can be concerning and cause a lot of anxiety. Therefore, it’s important for allergy sufferers to be proactive this season in getting their symptoms under control before the dandelions come out in force.
Is it allergies?
Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include runny or stuffy nose, itchy, red, water or swollen eyes and sneezing. You may also experience decreased energy, coughing or asthma flares, and headaches (especially in the sinuses). Overall it’s important to note that seasonal allergies will not cause body aches, diarrhea, fever or vomiting.
FullScript created a great comparison chart of when it may be allergies vs. a cold or flu:
*Please note that the symptoms for COVID-19 can vary and this information does not reflect symptoms of COVID-19 (the flu column reflects the annual influenza flu) and does not supersede any information you have received from Health Canada or any other government sources regarding COVID-19 symptoms and when to self-isolate.
What are allergies?
In spring, the biggest allergy trigger is pollen. Tree, grass and weeds release pollen into the air. Your body, when exposed to this pollen, then mistakenly identifies it as harmful to the body and mounts an immune response. This mounted immune response results in the symptoms we see as allergies.
What can be done for allergies?
With self-isolation, many individuals are spending a lot more time outdoors going for walks and other activities than they may have in the past. We want to ensure that you are able to enjoy this with minimal allergy symptoms!
Keep your windows closed. While I normally recommend opening the windows as much as possible to get fresh air into the home. For allergy sufferers, now may be the time to keep those windows closed for the next couple weeks. Allergies have a dose-response, meaning the more you are exposed the more symptoms you have – therefore, keeping windows closed will reduce your exposure to pollen within the home, allowing you less symptoms out of the home.
Avoid your food sensitivities. If you have foods that you know you are sensitive to, avoid these during allergy season (ideally we recommend to avoid your food sensitivities whenever possible, however, we realize that is not always feasible!) as they can exacerbate your environmental allergies.
Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids, which are beneficial in reducing the amount of histamine released (histamine is a chemical produced by the body in response to allergy exposure – it increases inflammation and mucous production). Try to eat colourful fruits and vegetables. Set a goal of trying out a new vegetable each week during quarantine. Some of my favourites are sautéed bok choy, baked brussel sprouts and carrots or parsnips cut into fries.
Use a sinus rinse. Sinus rinses like the neti-pot can help reduce sinus congestion and the associated discomfort or headaches that can arise from this. *Please ensure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting this treatment as it is not for everyone. Also ensure to use sterile water (boil your water and allow it to cool before use – I recommend using the inner wrist to test that the temperature will be comfortable for your sinuses similar to how you test a baby’s bottle).
Nutrients and Botanicals. There are many nutrient and botanical options for assisting with allergies. Two of my favourite are vitamin C and quercetin. In conjunction these two nutrients have an antihistamine effect, reducing allergy symptoms.
*Always ensure to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplementation to ensure it will be safe and effective for you.
Don’t want to be stared at when you sneeze in the grocery store? Need assistance beyond the items above? Book an appointment with your Naturopathic Doctor to get started on your allergy protocol.
Wishing you a sneeze free Spring,