Sniff! Itch! Wheeze!

The evidence is all around us lately. Even people whose allergy symptoms are normally mild to nonexistent are showing signs of allergic reaction this spring.

How are you holding up? If you're like many allergy sufferers, the 2012 season is shaping up to be one of the most challenging ever--sneeze!

Perhaps you've already heard many common, good-sense strategies for keeping irritants out of your home and off your body. Let's go a step further. Today, I offer three somewhat less-known strategies for minimizing your allergy suffering. These anti-allergy secrets just might make the difference to help you in win this year's spring battle.

Secret 1: Give your nose some TLC.

- Blow gently to avoid nosebleeds and even more congestion.
- Irrigate with a saline rinse or neti pot to moisturize and clear passages.
- Limit your exposure to irritants in the air, including chlorinated pools, secondhand smoke, and scents from cologne, candles, and cleaners.
- Apply ice or heat packs to the sinus area to relieve the pain and pressure of congestion and inflammation.
- Breathe in some steam from boiling water or a hot shower to ease congestion.

Secret 2: Some foods can be surprisingly helpful--or not.

- Eat a healthful dose of histamine-blocking foods, including parsley, broccoli, kale, and collard greens.
- Avoid consuming raw apples, cherries, pears, apricots, tomatoes, and some nuts during spring's high allergy times. These foods can trigger a cross reaction and actually make symptoms worse.
- Gargle with salt water to soothe a scratchy, irritated throat.
- Eliminate caffeine, processed foods, and sugar. These foods enhance stress and feed inflammation.
- Enjoy a cup of herbal tea. Nettle, eyebright, red clover, and rose hips are all helpful in easing allergy symptoms. But it may be best to avoid chamomile during allergy season. Chamomile, a relative of ragweed, can sometimes worsen symptoms.
- Add extra anti-inflammatory omega-3 to your diet. Find these healthy fats in flaxseed, avocado, and cold water fish, such as wild salmon.

Secret 3: Be smart about turning to the natural world for help.

- Flush out itchy, watery eyes with natural lubricating drops that work like tears.
- Try self-help moves like acupressure-to-go: To relieve congestion, press both sides of the face at the outside bottom of the nostrils for 30 seconds. Do this as often as you need to.
- Ask about allergy-fighting supplements: Stinging nettle can naturally lower histamine levels, vitamin C boosts the immune system, and bioflavonoids such as quercetin and bromelain lend natural anti-inflammatory action.
- Reduce stress to lower your body's cortisol production. Cortisol decreases your immune system's ammunition and makes you more susceptible to illness and inflammation. Stress-fighting techniques to try include acupuncture, exercise, and meditation.
- Know when you might need medical help. Allergy symptoms can mask more serious conditions. See your doctor if you experience thick, colored nasal discharge, a fever higher than 101 for more than 3 days, facial or upper tooth pain, coughing up thick mucus, or difficulty breathing. Such symptoms may indicate infection, asthma, or bronchitis.

No doubt, this spring is bursting with a lot more sniffles and intense symptoms than usual. Many people are suffering...big time! But while we can't do anything to shorten the season, we have more options than just waiting it out--among them, the three important strategies above. Don't suffer through another week of discomfort. Take action now to ease your reactions.

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Roberts Mittman, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., M.S., is a nutritional and lifestyle consultant, holistic mindset mentor, and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. Using natural, drug-free techniques, Roberta opens the door to complete mind-body health. Roberta's goal is not only to relieve patients' illness and discomfort, but to help them set realistic goals for physical and mental preventative care and overall wellness. Roberta believes in empowering individuals to be their own best healers.