Adapted from the Marin Independent Journal article by Adrian Rodriguez

As we move more into the spring, hopefully we’ll have more sunny days and less rain.  Since it’s been the rainiest year that we can remember, get ready for an assault on your allergies.  The rain hasn’t quite let up in Marin, but with the combination of rain and sunny spells, come budding and flowering plants and an increase in itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing.

“We’re already seeing problems on days that it stops raining with the amount of pollen in the air,” said Dr. Schuman Tam, an allergist at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae. “We haven’t seen the worst yet, but it’s coming.”

Allergists say that Marin’s hay fever season typically extends from mid-January into July. It starts with tree pollen and then just as the trees stop blooming in late March or April grasses begin broadcasting their pollen.

“Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

There is some good news.  Dr. Lindsay Finkas, a certified internal medicine and allergy and immunology specialist at Kaiser Permanente who works primarily out of the Novato offices, said that in terms of tree pollen, this season has been less severe than years before.  “Due to the continued rain, it’s given people a bit of a break,” she said. That’s because the showers wash away the pollen.
Marin physicians and practitioners have the evidence in the surge of patients with heavier and more diverse symptoms than in the past.  Finkas said when pollen counts are high, the first line of defense should be avoidance. “Keep your home and car windows closed, stay indoors, particularly in the early mornings and late afternoons,” she said. “When the air gets warmer, recirculating the air in the car helps.”  Dr. Tam added that if you’re a runner, cyclist or enjoy other outdoor activity, try exercising indoors instead.
As an alternative to steroid sprays, allergy shots, and over the counter pills like Benedryl, here are some natural ways to combat allergies:

  • Neti Pot – salt water rinse to clear sinus passages to remove pollen and help to ease stuffiness
  • Herbs and Supplements – stinging nettle, butterbur, quercetin, sea buckthorn, sage and Echinacea, vitamin C and  D
  • Limit Dairy – dairy can cause inflammation which can cause sinuses to react with stuffy and sneezing
  • Build Up Good Gut Bacteria – take probiotics to boost good gut bacteria which builds up an overall immune response in the system