Feel like your allergies are getting worse and lasting longer each year? You’re not wrong! According to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency, ragweed season now lasts as many as 25 days longer than it did just 10 years ago. “The time when ragweed plants die is being delayed each year,” explains Lewis H. Ziska, PhD, a USDA plant physiologist who studies trends in pollen seasonality. “This exacerbates allergies.”
But even as swollen sinuses and itchy eyes become a more regular part of life, we’re not getting any better at taking care of ourselves: In one study, 70 percent of allergy sufferers self-selected medication…but only 17 percent picked the best treatment. “Allergy sufferers tend to reach for oral antihistamines that don’t target substances that cause symptoms like runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and coughing,” explains osteopathic physician Ryan Steele, DO, an allergist and professor at Yale School of Medicine. “This often means allergy sufferers are not getting complete relief.” The better fix? These natural remedies, which are study-proven to keep you symptom-free all season long.
Best DIY: A Simple Rinse
“The nose is like an air filter for the lungs. It traps impurities from the air,” explains Mas Takashima, MD, director of the Sinus Center at Baylor College of Medicine. That’s why he advises irrigating the nasal passages with a rinse containing xylitol — a natural plant alcohol that’s commonly used as a sweetener. “Irrigation helps flush irritants, preventing itching, sneezing, and a runny nose,” he explains. And studies show that xylitol blocks the ability of common pathogens to adhere to the nose — plus, xylitol can’t be absorbed by the nasal tissues, so it keeps the nose moist longer than saline solutions, improving nasal airflow by up to 35 percent.
To make Dr. Takashima’s nasal rinse: Combine 8 oz. of distilled water, 1⁄4 tsp. of salt, 1⁄4 tsp. of baking soda and 1⁄2 tsp. of xylitol (in the baking section of supermarkets) into a nasal irrigation bottle, then rinse each nostril once daily. Prefer a store-bought option? Try Xlear Nasal Spray ($8.57, Amazon), which contains the study-backed dose of xylitol.
Best Supplement: Quercetin
“Quercetin is effective against fall allergy symptoms because it decreases nasal inflammation,” says Kathleen Dass, MD, a physician at the Michigan Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center. Indeed, according to a recent study, the plant compound dials down the output of the inflammatory chemicals that trigger allergy symptoms by 96 percent. For best results, Dr. Dass recommends taking 500 mg. daily.
One to try: NOW Supplements, Quercetin with Bromelain ($13.69 for 120 capsules, Amazon). Prefer whole-food sources? Quercetin is found naturally in apples, onions, grapefruit, red wine, and okra.
Best Sip: Oolong Tea
We know that drinking a cup of tea can ease stress, but we didn’t know it could also ward off allergy symptoms! Studies show that flavonoids in oolong tea — which is made with fermented tea leaves and has a mellow, woody flavor — inhibit the inflammation that causes sinus pressure. “Plant compounds unique to oolong tea, called theasinensins, stimulate the activity of anti-inflammatory white blood cells,” explains Leo Galland, MD, author of The Allergy Solution: Unlock the Surprising, Hidden Truth about Why You Are Sick and How to Get Well ($11.55, Amazon). To get the benefits, he recommends soaking two oolong tea bags in 8 oz. of boiling water for five minutes, and sipping four cups of the brew each day.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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