Sick of feeling fuzzy from allergy meds? Try these science-backed natural remedies.
Nothing puts a crimp in a spring run like sneezing, snot, and watery eyes. And since seasonal allergies can worsen over time, early intervention can be the difference between enjoying the outdoors and being stuck inside with a box of tissues. To help you avoid that unfortunate fate, we pulled together this list of the best natural ways to keep your allergy symptoms under wraps.
Sticking gel up your nose to keep snot from coming out of it sounds a little, well, icky at first. But Zicam's homeopathic allergy relief gel is backed by hard science. While it's not as targeted as, say, Benadryl, it also doesn't have the sleepy side effects of antihistamines. The active ingredients include galphimia glauca, a flower (how fitting!) known to help with upper respiratory symptoms from rhinitis; histamimum hydrochloricum, a natural histamine thought to lessen the body's histamine response over time by repeated small exposures; and luffa operculata, the same plant used to make loofa bath sponges.
Possibly the only good thing about seasonal allergies: It's the perfect excuse to head to the water! Typically beaches and other areas near the sea have a lot less pollen and mold than the surrounding areas, thanks to the cleansing power of ocean breezes.
"If you can afford to live in that first quarter mile from the beach, it's great," says Russell B. Leftwich, MD, an allergist in Nashville, Tenn. and spokesman for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Not to mention all the fun exercise options the beach offers—running, swimming, or volleyball anyone? And for those of us stuck in the middle of the continent, experts say that heading up the mountains is almost as helpful, as less vegetation grows in higher altitudes.
Pollen and mold spores can collect on your clothes, and it's crucial to get them off so you don't contaminate your house. Step one: Vigorously shake your clothing out outside. Experts say this will get rid of a lot of the pollen. You can then launder with normal detergent plus a little bleach or use a specific anti-allergen detergent. The last step is to dry your clothes in a dryer. While you get points for eco-friendliness, hanging your clothes outside to dry makes them pollen magnets.
Japanese clothier Sanyo has developed a pollen-resistant fabric that is used in making outerwear. According to the company, "This new fabric blocks pollen from clinging to the coat and reduces allergic reactions. It is breathable and releases moisture from the body to keep you drier than ever." The fabric is called Microfit SX and is also designed to be ultra silent and super soft. So not only will the jacket help your allergies, but it'll make you a ninja as well! The only downside: Designs are pretty limited at this time, but more options will likely be available soon.
Not for the fashion-conscious or heavy breathers, allergy masks with built-in HEPA filters are one of the best options for people who are seriously disabled by their allergies. You don't need to wear one all the time to reap the benefits (thank heavens), but they're recommended for chores like mowing the lawn, raking, and gardening. It might not be ideal for those after an even, sun-kissed glow, but it can go a long way in keeping symptoms to a minimum.
While the jury is still out on this traditional Chinese technique, one promising study found that children who underwent a three-month course of acupuncture suffered from fewer minor allergy symptoms. If your allergies are fairly mild and you want to stay away from medicine, acupuncture might be worth a try.
One of the most delicious options for allergy prevention is a shot of tart cherry juice. While whole cherries are equally tasty and provide many health benefits, juicing them concentrates a compound called quercetin, which has been "demonstrated to prevent the immune system from releasing histamines in laboratory tests, leading researchers to believe that quercetin-containing foods like cherry concentrate may help reduce allergy symptoms" according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. We'll drink to that!
Nothing wakes up your senses like fresh spring air. But if you're prone to allergies, then having your windows open, especially at night, can have you so busy rubbing, wiping, and scratching that you won't even get to enjoy it. Plus, experts say that using an air conditioner will help clean and dehumidify the air in your home.
For those of us with watery eyes and itchy noses, the first stop on your running route should be your computer. Check out the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's national allergy map. Updated daily, this site gives you the pollen and mold counts in your area, along with a handy meter for determining the threat level. Numbers in the high range? Consider keeping your workout indoors or popping an over-the-counter allergy pill 45 minutes before you head outside.