Allergy Season: How to Recognise Allergies and Treat Them
It’s springtime and for many, it’s not the joyous milestone to warmer weather that everyone deems it to be. Seasonal Allergies/hay fever (medical term: Allergic Rhinitis) affects 16 million people in South Africa, a higher number even than commonly reported diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Contrary to what the name suggests, hay fever isn’t caused by an allergy to hay. It’s an allergic reaction to an allergen such as pollen, dust and certain animals. When you have hay fever your immune system will react to an allergen as if were harmful to your body treating it as if it was an infection or illness. The reason for your body is to try and get rid of it. How does it do this? A variety of ways.
Common Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
- Post-nasal drip
- Itchy eyes
- Sneezing/ runny nose
- Excess clear mucus production
- Scratchy throat
- Irritation in the ears
- Exhaustion/ sleeping disorders
- Mood swings
- Low blood pressure
- Hives/ eczema/ skin irritations
- Middle ear infections
How to Treat your Seasonal Allergies
There are a few types of medication and medical treatments you can do to help alleviate the symptoms of hay fever:
When you have hay fever, your immune system reacts to an allergen by producing a chemical called histamine. This chemical is responsible for a runny nose, constant sneezing and excessive mucus production. It does this in an attempt to flush the allergen out of your body. Antihistamines block the production of this chemical, providing temporary relief from these symptoms.
If your symptoms persist after using an antihistamine or antihistamines are ineffective, your GP would recommend using a nasal spray/ drops that contain corticosteroids.
Corticosteroids are effective in helping to reduce swelling and inflammation. They take longer to work than antihistamines but they do provide longer relief from hay fever symptoms. Side effects are extremely rare, however, they include irritation due to nasal dryness and nosebleeds. If your symptoms are quite severe and need swift relief, your GP may prescribe a short course (5-10 days) of corticosteroid tablets.
Also known as hyposensitisation or desensitisation, is another type of treatment used for certain allergies. It is only considered when your hay fever symptoms are severe. It involves gradually introducing more and more of the allergen affecting you into your body in an effort to make your body less sensitive to it. It is often injected under the skin of your upper arm.
These injections are given weekly, with a slightly higher dose each time. When you reach the effective dosage in reducing your allergic reaction, you will need to continue the treatment at that dosage for 3 years.
Raw Local Honey
This works because the honey contains the local pollen that is causing your hay fever. A few tablespoons every day can help relieve general symptoms of hay fever.
Hot and Spicy Food
Excessive mucus a problem? Try eating hot, spicy foods. They help loosen mucus and make it easier to expel it. Try adding onion, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and garlic to your recipes.
Made from lamb, beef and chicken, can help ease respiratory problems by helping to expel excess nasal mucus. It can also help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body.
These foods help support a stronger immune system, increase energy levels, and improve digestion and so much more. Food to eat during allergy season: Kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi, kombucha, natto, yoghurt or raw cheese.
In addition to high levels of vitamins B and C, pineapple is also rich in the enzyme bromelain as well as other essential nutrients that help reduce your allergic reaction. Make sure you eat the core of the fresh ripe pineapple, that’s where the highest concentration of essential nutrients is found.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This type of vinegar helps boost the immune system, supports lymphatic drainage and helps break up mucus.
Fresh Organic Veg
Organic fresh veggies, especially those that are high in quercetin (which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory), can help in the fight against seasonal allergies. Be sure to pick vegetables that are orange, yellow or dark green for the best nutrient density during allergy season. See our Seasonal Fruit and Vegetable chart.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential minerals, vitamins, as well as protein. The harmful chemicals which can be found in commercially fished products can have allergens in it, which could just make your hay fever even worse.
As an added bonus to help you cope with your allergies, try adding garlic, onions, horseradish and ginger – particularly ginger, as it helps break down toxins in your system and warm the body.
Enjoy a sniffle-free allergy season!