For allergy sufferers, the fact that Spring is in the air is less a cause for celebration than it is one for grabbing a tissue. That’s because the Spring season is also pollen season, when airborne irritants from pollinating grasses, trees, flowers and weeds cause runny and itchy noses and eyes, coughing, congestion and sneezing in those sensitive to it. There are a variety of over-the-counter medications and sprays — as well as many natural remedies — to help get you through this time of year, but did you know that water can also be valuable in reducing seasonal allergy symptoms? Here are some “aqua tips” to add to your allergy fighting arsenal.
Drink it. Staying hydrated is always important, but during allergy season, it thins out mucus, supports sinus drainage and helps the body to rid itself of foreign irritants. Adding a tablespoon each of local honey and raw apple cider vinegar (with the mother) to ordinary water increases allergy relief potential. (Ingesting local honey helps build immunity to local pollen, and apple cider vinegar is believed to block histamine reactions.) A little lemon juice is good for digestion and adds more flavor.
Keep your nose clean. As weird as it sounds to those who have never tried it, nasal washing is a sworn-by, go-to technique for many. The process involves sniffing or spraying a saltwater solution up one side of the nose and allowing it to drain out the other, and is a proven way to wash away pollen and other irritants causing inflammation and congestion. Many stores and pharmacies sell Neti Pots, Aladdin’s lamp-shaped containers specifically designed for flushing the nasal passages, as well as premixed and sterile saline solutions. However, the cupped hand method of holding a homemade solution of 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp of salt and equal amounts of baking soda added to a pint of warm, distilled water also works.
Wash away the day. If you’ve noticed the fine layer of pollen blanketing everything in your outdoor living space, you won’t find it hard to believe there is some of the sticky yellow stuff on you as well. Once it’s trapped in your hair and on your clothing, it can continue to get in your eyes and nose well after you’ve gone indoors. An evening shower will help wash off clingy pollen before you take it to bed with you and the warm water may help relax you while removing itchy eye irritants and opening your nasal passages, reducing snoring and helping you sleep. For clothing, wash more often this time of year to reduce the chance of spreading the pollen among other items in your closet.
Let off some steam. Inhaling steam can open up and soothe irritated nasal passages and clear them of mucus. Simply boil a large pot of water and pour it into a bowl or other container you can safely place on the table. (You can also lean over the sink.) Drape a towel over your head to trap the steam and carefully lean over the bowl while gently breathing in the steam for up to 10 minutes. If you’re a fan of essential oils, place a few drops of a sinus opening inhalant like eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon or lavender in the water. As a bonus, your house will smell like a spa and you’ll have nice clean pores!
Make a compress. When you’re sinuses are really clogged, allergy symptoms go past annoying and border on painful. Try saturating a soft cloth with warm water and place the cloth over your whole sinus area, from the eyebrows to the bottom of the nose. It can open up your passages allowing for easier breathing and it feels really nice against the area that is often painful when inflamed by allergies.