By Sara Calabro
The worst of the spring allergy season is behind us. However, many people are still suffering.
Especially in regions with significant temperature and precipitation fluctuation, allergies can flare up just when you think you’re out of the woods. Even into the early days of summer, acupuncturists remain busy with treating sniffling, sneezing, itchy eyes, and sinus headaches.
Since seasonal allergies tend to ebb and flow, it’s helpful to know some self-care techniques for when your symptoms act up. Here are eight tips that acupuncturists recommend to their allergy-laden patients.
Use a neti pot
Acupuncturists love neti pots, and they especially love them this time of year, when your nasal passages can use some extra clearing.
“I recommend that patients use a nasal rinse once a day during bad allergy times,” says Gahanna, Ohio acupuncturist Melanie Campbell. “It helps removes excess mucus and allergens and germs from the nose.”
Campbell reminds her patients to avoid neti potting more than once a day because overuse can rid the nose of its natural flora.
New York acupuncturist Adam Cantor recommends, “Keep your neti pot in the shower and use it once a day when you shower.”
“It’s easy to use on the go, and it contains xylitol and grapefruit seed extract in a saline solution,” says Ness-Hawks. “It’s all packaged in a metered pump which mists the spray deep into your sinuses. More and more research is showing that the simple sugar xylitol is beneficial to the respiratory system and acts as a surfactant to help loosen the particles from the nasal membranes.”
Ness-Hawks recommends using Xlear five times a day at the height of allergy season.
Wash your hands
Put down the flowers. Step away from the flowers. Now, go wash your hands.
“One of the easiest, often-overlooked tips I remind my patients of during allergy season is to wash their hands,” says Kerry Boyle Jenni, an acupuncturist in Montpelier, Vermont.
“It’s tempting to handle beautiful spring flowers, but this can lead to itching, sneezing, watery eyes, and other allergy symptoms,” says Jenni. “Pollen easily attaches to our hands, even just through the spring breeze. It’s important to wash with a gentle soap after coming inside and especially before eating.”
Poke your face
There are seven acupuncture points—six of which are located on the face—that can work wonders for relieving spring allergies. Learn all about the magical seven and how to use them in this article.
If seven points feels like too many, and you’re looking for the one winner, San Francisco acupuncturist Paola Acuna is partial to Stomach 2. “A good and easy remedy for allergies is to press on Stomach 2,” says Acuna. “It will help alleviate any sinus pressure and help clear congestion.”
Try gua sha
Gua sha is a traditional Chinese massage technique that involves scraping the skin to enhance blood and qi flow. The results of gua sha can be surprising if you haven’t done it before—it brings blood to the skin surface and can cause some visible bruising or redness—but it actually feels great and helps release toxins and stimulate the immune system.
Typically done on the back, gua sha is difficult to perform on yourself, but it’s a great home remedy for helping loved ones who are suffering from allergies. Below, Robin Green, an acupuncturist in Morgan Hill, California, shows how to perform gua sha on kids.
Use essential oils
Can’t find anyone to give you a gua sha massage? Try massaging your sinus area with essential oils.
Acupuncturist Nikoo Saleh Kasmai, of Walnut Creek, California, suggests rubbing eucalyptus or peppermint oil into your hands and then massaging the area around Yintang, an acupuncture point located between the eyebrows.
She explains, “Slide your fingers up and over the brows, to the temples and up to the hairline, then back down to the bridge of the nose. Then do some tapping over the sinuses—first over the eye brows then on the cheeks below the eyes.”
Bring an extra layer
“Fleece sweatshirt” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about spring-allergy cures, but Novato, California acupuncturist Ronit Gesundheit swears by it.
“Sometimes people who suffer with hay fever have an intolerance to temperature changes,” explains Gesundheit. “During allergy season, always keep an extra layer handy for when you start sneezing—I recommend a fleece sweatshirt. Put it on when you start having an allergy attack, and often it will stop it before it sets in.”
Clean up your diet
“Eating cleanly is especially important in this season,” says Philadelphia acupuncturist Laura Hawley.
Specifically, Hawley recommends staying away from refined carbs and dairy. “Especially avoid white sugar, which depresses the immune system,” she says.
Chicago acupuncturist Lesley Heidrich concurs, recommending that people dealing with spring allergies limit or eliminate dairy intake.
Heidrich says, “Dairy will increase the mucus and phlegm that allergies cause.”
Chill out with some mint and honey
Acupuncture theory helps explain why acupuncturist Joe Rothstein of Marysville, Washington recommends mint tea with honey as a spring-allergy remedy.
“In Chinese medicine, something called wei qi is responsible for keeping our bodies safe—it is our defensive energy against things like colds and flus, and allergies,” says Rothstein. “When a person suffers from allergies, the body’s wei qi is on hyper alert.”
Rothstein tells his allergy patients to sit quietly while sipping strong mint tea with a touch of raw local honey in it. “The tea helps the body adjust to its environment and helps clear some irritation from the lungs and skin,” says Rothstein.
In addition, Rothstein recommends reciting a mantra while sipping the tea. “Try something to the effect of ‘I can find safety, even though the world may not feel that way,'” says Rothstein. “This helps calm the mind, which influences the body to be less reactive.”
Photo by Sara Calabro
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