What are some preventative measures I can take to avoid the impacts of aeroallergens?
- Consider sunglasses. This might sound like hearsay at first, but is now supported by two peer-reviewed, randomized controlled trials. Groups were followed for a period of 4 weeks, randomized to wear sunglasses and tracked using the Rhinoconjunctivitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQLQ). Those wearing sunglasses experienced significantly fewer ocular symptoms by reducing the amount of air circulating over the eyes. They also experienced reduced sneezing and a runny nose in addition to reducing the need for antihistamine rescue medications.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes. The concern with rubbing your eyes is the risk of developing keratoconus where the cornea of the eye progressively thins. This can result in vision changes as the cornea plays a large role in the optical power of the eye. Some theories about how rubbing causes the cornea to thin is by elevating the temperature of the epithelium, increasing intraocular pressure and distending tissues of the eye.
- Close windows. A common thought is that opening the windows increases the circulation of air, and therefore reduces the concentration of pollen and aeroallergens. However, one study from 1996 demonstrated that opening the windows increased the concentration of aeroallergens in the home, so researchers recommended keeping the windows closed and introducing a filter. On the opposite end of the spectrum was a study demonstrating pollen levels as 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. As concentrations were reduced exteriorly, concentrations increased inside as the pollen particles are trapped indoors.
Perhaps the most interesting finding of all was a two-year study out of Germany that demonstrated aeroallergens can stick around months after settling into the home. This lends some insight on why people may suffer from these allergies long after the Spring blooms have settled.
The ultimate question - to open or not to open? While air circulation may help reduce concentration in particular spots, introducing a high efficiency particulate (HEPA) filter and keeping doors closed may be your greatest defense. Asthma Canada recommends keeping the windows closed and using air conditioning to help filter particles.
- Lean on mother nature. There are incredible benefits to indoor plants including strengthening our immune systems, improve focus and concentration, reducing sensations of fatigue, and improving a positive mood. Choosing plants with a low pollen count is especially important, in addition to avoiding floral bouquets. Plants such as gerberas (G. jamesonii), English ivy (Hedera helix), peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii), spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and the snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) are all options that provide greenery and forego a major risk of exacerbating your hay fever symptoms.
- Certain foods do in fact contain a protein group known as profilins that have been implicated in the exacerbation of allergy symptoms. However, before we dive further, it is important to note that even if you are prone to hay fever, only 10-20% of those with hay fever are sensitive to profilins. Foods such as melon, apples, bananas and carrots have been implicated in a variety of profilin-related allergies. One way to track your reactions is with an elimination log that sees individuals cut the food out of their typical diet for a period and then reintroduce the food. Should they experience any hay fever type symptoms, it may be associated with that food. Tracking this under the guidance of your naturopathic doctor or another primary care provider ensures the safest approach.
What can I use for symptomatic relief?
Relief from allergies can come in a variety of forms including alleviating symptoms temporarily and prevention. One means is through products such as Allergy Relief that contains various members of plants from a variety of families. Exposure to these can help to modulate the immune response, educating the body against an inappropriate reaction to allergens such as pollen.
A clinical trial conducted in the Netherlands demonstrated that use of the product resulted in an 88.5% improvement in symptoms of allergies, especially in congestion. It's recommended to take this homeopathic preparation approximately one month out from allergy season to allow your immune system time to adjust.
Additionally, one of the most common symptoms of hay fever is itchy eyes. It becomes a negative spiral because as the itch increases, you might potentially rub your eyes which introduces even more pollen into them and increases inflammation. A cycle that keeps repeating itself again and again.
One thing to consider is A.Vogel Eye Drops to soothe irritated tissues. These contact friendly drops consist of hyaluronic acid sourced from organic corn silk and eye bright (Euphrasia). These ingredients both have anti-bacterial properties, in addition to being incredibly hydrating and anti-inflammatory respectively.
Free from preservatives, the design of the bottle prevents air from entering the chamber. This means from the time of opening, the product can be used for up to six months and costs far less than buying over the counter products which tend to last less than a month.