Antihistamines, as you might have guessed, block the release of histamine from mast cells, thereby reducing classic allergy symptoms such as headaches, itching or runny nose. In fact, they may be employed for any allergic reaction that’s blamed on histamine release, like hives. Too much antihistamine, however, can make a person sleepy. And antihistamines tend to dry out mucous membranes. The secretion of those membranes becomes so thick and dry that it can’t be expelled by coughing or sneezing, and it backs up into the sinus or respiratory tract. So what begins as the relatively simple runny nose of hay fever can end up as chronic, painful sinusitis or a stubborn, bone-dry cough – or both. Then you need a decongestant.
Nasal decongestant sprays and drops shrink swollen membranes in the nose and provide temporary relief of hay fever. If decongestants are relied on heavily, however, a rebound phenomenon occurs: after a couple of weeks, when the spray or drops are discontinued, the membranes swell again and congestion is worse than ever. Oral decongestants have their own drawbacks — they’re adrenalin-like, and can make people hyper. So if you’re a high-strung, nervous type, they’re the last thing you need.
As you can see, once a hay fever sufferer boards the drug merry-go-round, it’s sometimes hard to jump off. But herbs, exercise and vitamin Ñ can all help to clear up the congestion and misery of hay fever – without the unpleasant side effects of antihistamines and decongestants.
Certain herbs act as decongestants, clearing clogged mucus. A tea of fenugreek, anise or horehound, or a concoction of garlic oil in water, made into a tea, can clear up congestion in twenty minutes. The vapors of eucalyptus also work wonders: put leaves into a large pot of boiling water and boil for five minutes. Then turn off the heat and, with a towel draped over your head, breathe in the vapors.
Many hay fever sufferers have found that vigorous exercise – running, walking or bicycling – helps to clear the nose, too.
Vitamin Ñ acts as a natural antihistamine, reducing the swelling and inflammation that causes discomfort in nasal and sinus tissues. And, of course, it helps tremendously to avoid whatever triggers your hay fever.