According to the American Optometric Association, 40% of Americans suffer from ocular allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis.
Are you one of them?
You know the symptoms:
redness of the eyes
small bumps called papillae in the lower inner eyelid
swelling, or chemosis, of the conjunctiva
These ocular symptoms may occur in one or both eyes and may or may not be accompanied by sinusitis, rhinitis and/or other signs of systemic allergies.
And if you're like most of the 50 million Americans experiencing various types of allergies, you've probably used over-the-counter or prescription medications including eye drops to help alleviate your symptoms.
For those seeking a more natural approach to seasonal wellness, the good new is there are options beyond running away from pollen...
Aside from use chronic use of allergy eye drops and antihistamines, there are other things you can do to mitigate the triggers and bothersome effects of allergies (both ocular and systemic):
Consume a low-histamine diet.
Our bodies naturally produce histamine, which is needed for immune, digestive and neurological function. But, with an abundance of histamine in a conventional diet, allergy triggers are more likely. Foods high in histamine include: cheeses, cultured foods, smoked and cold cut meats, canned foods, legumes, vinegar and alcohol. An elimination diet will identify any histamine intolerance. (It should be noted here that a low inflammatory diet lessens the body's reaction to allergens. Pro-inflammatory diets promote inflammation and thus will have a stronger response to the stimulus or allergen.)
Saline nasal rinse (aka netty pot)
This works wonders for clearing nasal passageways where pollen can get trapped. Xylitol nasal spray is a great option for kids to soothe and moisturize.
The bees knees
Consume daily a teaspoon or so of local, raw honey or sprinkle pollen on cereal/smoothies. I like to use propolis spray when traveling and have even reaped the benefits of minimizing throat scratches with consistent use.
Apply topically: Lavender + Peppermint + Lemon in equal combinations. This is a powerful trio when applied with a carrier oil. Make blend first in a rollerball or apply (carefully) with fingers to the bridge of the nose and orbital bones. Inhale this trio from an ultrasonic diffuser or consume in a vegetable capsule daily.
Nettle or peppermint tea
Sip throughout the day especially during allergy season and stay hydrated.
HEPA air purifier (high-efficiency particulate air)
Add one to your home if not (ideally) to each room. It's a filter that forces air through, trapping dust, pollen, smoke and other harmful particles.
Get the lymph (fluid that drains toxins, etc. from organs and tissues) moving around your orbital bones. Just like exercise moves lymph in our bodies, the face has an intricate network of lymphatic drainage which becomes stagnant, especially when toxins, microbes and allergens become present. Here is a great tutorial on how to perform a proper eye massage to drain lymph surrounding ocular tissues.
Change clothes and/or take a shower when coming home to remove any allergens that may have stuck to you.
Consider alternative treatments like acupuncture and halotherapy (aka salt therapy - see below) for allergy management.
Himalayan salt lamp
I am a big fan of pink salt lamps and halo therapy (salt therapy) for a number of reasons, including respiratory and allergy support. Essentially, negative ions are released into the surrounding space that helps cleanse and purify the air through what's called passive salt therapy. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where you can visit a salt cave (Asheville, NC has some great ones), a few short sessions per week will certainly support the body during allergy season. Alternatively, use a Himalayan salt inhaler for respiratory support.
If you have any other tips for minimizing allergy symptoms naturally, I'd love for you to share them in the comments!