Many of us have been there: Struggling with how to fight fall allergies or to find fall allergy cures that are natural and safe. Look no more: From the surprising “allergy armor” in your closet to the natural supplements at your health-food store, our expert panel pulls no punches when it comes to giving hay fever the heave-ho.
1. Banish pollen with shampoo.
“Your hair is a sponge for pollen,” says physician Fred Pescatore, MD, who suggests showering every evening to rinse away those pesky particles. Also smart: “Close your eyes and wash your eyelids with a tear-free baby shampoo to get rid of allergens,” says allergist Clifford Bassett, MD.
2. Take the me-time "medication."
Allergies are an overreaction of your immune system, and since stress taxes that system, it can intensify symptoms. The upshot? Anything you can do to relax — from listening to music to petting your cat — will help spell relief.
3. Stop OAS.
That’s Oral Allergy Syndrome: “Certain foods, like melons, can trick your body into thinking they’re ragweed, causing an itchy mouth,” says allergist Sakina Bajowala, MD. “Bananas and chamomile tea can also trigger a reaction.” Simply cooking OAS offenders (like putting bananas in bread pudding, for example) prevents reactions.
4. Channel Jackie O.
What does Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis have to do with allergy relief? She wore oversized sunglasses, which block pollen from entering your eyes, says Dr. Bassett. How else can you use fashion to foil fall allergies? “Wear cotton and other natural fibers,” advises Dr. Pescatore. “Non-natural fibers, like nylon and polyester, create an electromagnetic charge that attracts pollen to you.”
5. Make an anti-pollen parfait.
Since most of your immune system is located in your gut, probiotics — which dose your intestines with healthy bacteria — help alleviate allergy symptoms. To get a probiotic boost, simply layer yogurt containing live cultures in a glass with blueberries, which are rich in quercetin, a natural antihistamine! Even easier: Take a supplement containing lactobacillus, such as Align or Culturelle, suggest our experts.
6. Load up on omega-3s.
“A recent Japanese study suggests omega-3 oil reduces seasonal allergies,” says Bassett, explaining that its immunity-boosting effects tame allergic responses. (A bonus? Experts agree that omega-3 fatty acids help boost thyroid function and aid in maintaining a healthy weight.)
7. Stop sneezes with veggies.
“Foods that lower internal inflammation help prevent your body from overreacting when it gets hit with pollen,” says Pescatore. A few of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods? “Vegetables like pumpkin, butternut squash, broccoli and parsnips — all in season right now.”
8. Take the herbal cure.
Used in Ayurvedic medicine, tinospora cordifolia (aka guduchi), has been shown to “decrease the sneezing and stuffy nose caused by hay fever,” says Dr. Bajowala. Her Rx: 300 mg., three times a day. (Find tinospora cordifolia under the brand name Tinofend at Phytosensia.com or type in “guduchi” at Amazon.com). Important: Consult your doctor before taking any new supplement.
9. Steer clear of honey.
Remember that honey isn’t a cure-all. Heard that taking a spoonful of honey (which contains trace amounts of pollen) daily over several weeks can help build up your immunity to allergens? Not so, says Basset: “Honey can actually aggravate symptoms.”
10. Ask about under-the-tongue drops..
If you suffer from severe allergies, allergy shots — which introduce ever-increasing amounts of allergens into your system to build up your immunity — are worth considering, as they’re effective in more than 85 percent of patients. But if you're shot shy? You can get the same great benefits from under-the-tongue, or sublingual, drops administered by your allergist. “If you have one or two allergies, say, to ragweed or cats, this can be a great option,” says Bajowala.
11. Get a little bit dirty.
Sure, you know that keeping your pillowcase pollen-free and changing your dehumidifier filters help cut down on ragweed and mold spores. But you may be surprised to learn that when it comes to allergies, especially for little ones, a bit of dirt can be a good thing. Called the “farmer’s effect,” researchers have discovered that early exposure to the great outdoors — and its myriad pollen-producers — helps prevent allergies in children. Growing up with a cat or dog also has protective benefits.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.