It’s finally spring just about everywhere, which means it’s time for the classic guessing game, “Do I have allergies or a spring cold?”
Here’s one easy way to tell: When people have a first bout with seasonal allergies, they typically experience itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and a runny nose with clear — rather than discolored — mucus, said Dr. Ellen Dutta, assistant medical director of allergy at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“If there’s a lot of itching or sneezing, those are the clues that it’s allergies,” she said.
Allergy testing is the only way to know for sure if you’re allergic, and your specialist might recommend commercial medication such as an over-the-counter antihistamines, allergy shots, or under-the-tongue immunotherapy treatments.
But what if you want to treat your allergies without medical intervention?
(With your doctor’s blessing, that is.) While there’s no silver bullet natural remedy for allergies, there are some lifestyle changes you can undertake to help make the season bearable. Here are 4 ways to help reduce your allergy suffering — and one thoroughly debunked “remedy” to avoid:
Forget every woo-woo thing your co-worker told you about eating local honey to immunize your body against seasonal allergies. The method is completely unproven, according to Dutta.
While the idea that honey could help allergies has logical roots — honey may have some anti-inflammatory benefits, and repeatedly exposing patients to small amounts of allergens is considered an allergy treatment — honey for allergy relief has never been consistently duplicated in clinical studies, according to the Mayo Clinic. Worse yet, honey can cause health problems in people with bee allergies, and infant botulism if given to children younger than a year old.
4. Change your clothes
If you’ve been outside during allergy season, it’s a good idea to take off your shoes and change your clothes when you move indoors, which limits your exposure to pollen and stops the spread of pollen in your home.
Pollen can ride inside on pet fur, too, so it’s a good idea to keep dogs and cats as clean as possible. “These are all small things that can add up,” Dutta said.
5. Wash your hair
It’s not just your clothes you should wash when you come in from the great outdoors. Dutta recommends taking a quick shower to wash off any pollen that may have adhered to your person. Those trying to cut down on their weekly washings should know that this technique includes actually washing your hair — no shower caps allowed.
“The pollen collects on your hair,”Dutta explained. “When you go to bed the pollen can collect on the pillow, and you have more exposure that way.”