It seems to me that more and more people I run into – adults and children alike – are fighting allergic reactions to pollen. When you realize that the amount of pollen is accountably higher now than it was ten years ago, it comes as no surprise.
According to sources, there are two main reasons for the rise in pollen counts in the air:
1. The first is climate change. Rising global temperatures and humidity levels result in earlier tree, grass and weed pollination that lasts longer into the year. As CO2 levels increase, plants produce more pollen too – three to four times more. (Allergists think the pollen itself may actually be more potent.)
2. Pollen is a fine powdery substance, typically yellow, discharged from the male part of flowering plants. In other words, pollen is the sperm of the plant. Those granular particles are looking for female trees and in the absence of such partners (Many US cities plant fewer female plants in public places now because their flowers and seeds are “messier” to manage.), they well, settle for the human nose.
Here’s what happens when those determined pollen particles find their way into your nostrils.
A grain of pollen looks something like a spiny sea urchin. Imagine this prickly invader entering your nasal passages and latching onto the soft mucous membranes that line the bronchial and nasal passages. These tissue membranes contain immune cells loaded with histamines and when an allergen trigger, such as pollen, barges in, the immune cells release histamine to help the body get rid of the intruder by initiating sneezing, watery eyes and itching.
Most allergy medications attempt to treat the symptoms your body initiates to get rid of the allergen, which makes no sense. Afterall, your body is doing what it needs to do to rid you of the pollen. Shoring up the immune system and reducing your exposure to pollen before your body goes into self-defense mode makes far more sense. Here are some proven ways to nip things in the bud, as they say; i.e. create an unwelcome environment for pollen in your life:
Neti Pots. Nasal flushing has been in practice for thousands of years for a reason. It works. Neti pots, small vessels shaped like Aladdin’s lamp, are inexpensive and come with simple instructions. This is a wonderful practice to begin and end the day with and only takes minutes. It’s also a must-do if you feel a cold coming on. The mild saline solution rids the nasal passage of unwanted particles before they can work their way into the tissue. Some people report that it also reduces snoring!
Aromatherapy. Put a couple of drops of Eucalyptus oil in a small dish of steaming hot water. Hang your head over the bowl, place a towel over the back of your head to create a tent, close your eyes and gently breathe in the healing qualities of this oil until you feel your sinuses begin to drip. Do a few times throughout the day. It’s effective and easy.
Alternate nostril breathing. Cover your right nostril and inhale though your left nostril for a count of five. Hold for a count of five. Then cover your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril for a count of five. Inhale through your right nostril and hold for five.. Cover your right nostril and exhale through your left. Do four more rounds. This helps ease symptoms.
Yoga. Downward-facing dog is a position that will help relieve stuffiness and drain trapped mucus from your nasal passage. Here’s an abbreviated way to perform this classic posture: Get on “all fours”, with hands positioned directly beneath your shoulders. Raise your bottom straight up into the air as you straighten both your arms and legs. You will resemble an inverted “V”. Press your hands and feet firmly into the floor as you push your buttocks up into the air. Inhale and exhale for a count of five; repeat four more times. Walk your hands in close to your feet (It’s okay to slightly bend your knees, if necessary.) and slowly return to standing.
Reflexology is a very effective way to clear sinus congestion. If you feel your sinuses congested or swollen, either visit a qualified reflexologist for relief or work your own sinus points. The sinus points are located on the pads of all of the toes and fingers. Breathe into points that feel sensitive until you feel a change in the level of sensation. If you want to learn a very specific and effective technique to work the sinus reflexes (along with lots of other techniques),consider attending one of four foundational reflexology courses coming up soon. They are open to both licensed practitioners and lay people wanting to learn how to support their own health or that of their family.
(foot) Reflexology – June 29 & 30, 2013 – Maitland (Orlando), Florida
– July 13 & 14, 2013 – Tallhassee, Florida
– August 17 & 18, 2013 – Orlando, Florida
Reflexology for the Hands – July 27 & 28, 2013 – Gainesville, Florida
Spices. Add enough horseradish, chili peppers, cayenne, wasabi or hot mustard to your food to cause your nasal passages to temporarily decongest.
Herbs. Freeze-dried stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and butterbur (Petasites hybridus) are natural antihistamines, without the side effects of dry mouth and drowsiness. A Swiss study, published in the British Journal of Medicine, found that butterbur was as effective as the drug cetirizine, the active ingredient in Zyrtec.
Laundry. Dry all your laundry indoors during the pollen season, to stop it from collecting pollen. Remove your outdoor clothes when you arrive home, since they will be coated with pollen. Wash bedding often.
Indoor/Outdoor Pets can be a source of pollen as it sticks to animal fur. Avoid petting them a lot. Wear a mask to thoroughly brush them before they enter the house.
Air quality. Keep windows closed. Run the air conditioner to remove excess humidity. No fans; air currents stir up pollen from the floor and furnishings. Use high-quality filters in your AC system and change out monthly or more often, if necessary. Invest in a vacuum cleaner that keeps allergen particles in; vacuum frequently.
Outdoor time. Limit being outside during the times of day that pollen is highest: between 5am and 10am, and dusk. Particularly, avoid exercising outdoors when the pollen count is high.
Face and hair. Wash your face and blow your nose often throughout the day. Wash your hair before retiring if you’ve been outside during the day.
Vaseline. Some folks report that smearing a little Vaseline just inside each nostril helps. If you breathe only through the nose, much of the pollen will stick to the Vaseline.