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How to Defeat Hay Fever

It’s getting warmer out there!

For many of us, this incites fond memories of picnics, walks outside and trips to the park.

But for many others, all they can think about is the runny nose, the itchy eyes, the constant sneeze and tickle in the back of the throat. Yep, it’s allergy-season again.

Is there actually a way to avoid this nagging feeling?
Are there really medications out there that will allow you to see the grass and trees as friends again?
Well, yes, there is still a way!

Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever (or seasonal allergic rhinitis) affects over 35 million Americans each year.

With the pollen count being quite high this year, people who previously have had no trouble with allergies may experience some symptoms this year. It may take one by so much surprise, in fact, that it can be confusing to tell if it’s just a “head cold” or actually allergic symptoms.  

There are some ways to tell the difference between the common cold and seasonal allergies:

    • Most colds clear up in 7-10 days, while allergy symptoms can last much longer. So, if your cold symptoms don’t go away, see your healthcare provider.
    • If your symptoms return during the same season each year, you should suspect allergies.
  • A person with allergies may also have “allergic shiners“, which are dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses.

  Allergic shiners – note the dark circles under both eyes.

Courtesy of

  • In children, you can look out for upward rubbing of the nose to relieve an itch, known as an “allergic salute“.

  Courtesy of

There are basically three ways one can treat allergies. That includes:
1. Avoidance

    • Try to stay indoors on dry, windy days or when the pollen counts are high.
    • Get rid of “pollen traps” in your home if you can, such as carpeting or dirty air filters.
  • You can wear a mask when cutting the grass or exposing yourself to a high pollen count.

2. Medications

    • Your body creates an allergic reaction when it detects certain substances (such as smoke, pollens, dust, molds), and then releases a substance called histamine. Histamine can inflame and irritate the inner lining of your nose and then cause the usual symptoms we recognize, including sneezing, itching, watery eyes, and even headaches, moodiness, or difficulty sleeping.
  • ANTI-Histamines are over-the-counter (OTC)medicines that can relieve mild symptoms, and can be taken daily. These includes medicines such as “Allegra”, “Zyrtec”, and “Claritin”. (Remember, the generic names also work just as well!).  Please keep in mind that these medicines can make you drowsy. So, never use them when driving or using heavy machinery.
    • OTC Nasal sprays are also helpful to dry up your runny nose, but keep in mind that they can worsen symptoms (also known as “rebound congestion”) if used for more than 3 days in a row.
  • Prescription nasal sprays contain a small amount of steroid that also helps to dry the nose and decrease swelling in the nasal passage – to help you breathe better. These are by prescription of a doctor.

3. Allergy shots

    • If the above recommendations don’t do the trick, it may be wise to see an allergist or ENT (ear-nose-and-throat) doctor. They are doctors specially trained to treat allergies.
  • At the specialist, they will test to see exactly what you’re allergic to and give you injections of small amounts of these substances so your body will learn how to block the allergic reaction.

A Dutch research study also supports that eating onions may help with hay fever symptoms. Onions contain a natural anti-histamine, called “quercetin”, in almost 10 times as much as kale and other vegetables! There’s no recommended dose as of yet, however, so consider eating red onions raw and tossed through salads, or on sandwiches or in cooked dishes. Quercetin can also be found in black tea, green tea, apples, raspberries, red grapes and broccoli.

May your sneezes be a thing of the past!

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Dr Felecia Sumner is a board-certified family medicine physician, wellness strategist, national speaker and best-selling author. She is dedicated to empowering you and your communities to become WELL – Whole, Energized, and Loving Life.


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