Friday, April 17, 2009

Ehhhhh-chooooo!

Silly me. I decided to sleep with my windows open last night, enticed by the glorious weather of late. But instead of rolling out of bed with a giant smile on my face, I woke up itchy and sniffling. (Yes, the title of this entry is the sound of my ginormous sneeze this morning.) Thank you Mother Freakin' Nature! Yes, it's pollen season in the ATL again. And according to experts, allergy sufferers in the Southeast might have a particularly tough season this year due to high tree pollen counts caused by fluctuating weather. Some of the major offenders include pine, birch, oak, sweetgum and sycamore trees. Let's put things into perspective, shall we? A moderate pollen count is in the 31 to 60 range, while "extremely high" is anything over 121. Here in Atlanta, our pollen count on Wednesday was 1063. Holy hay fever, Batman! Needless to say, I've already taken some Zyrtec and have been guzzling Emergen-C and hot tea throughout the afternoon.
So what else can I do to get rid of that scratchy, sniffly feeling? Here are some tips to help reduce pollen-related allergy misery.

Around the House
• Wash hands and rinse eyes in cold water to clear residual pollen.
• Keep windows closed and the car sunroof shut.
• Change air filters once a month; wash electrostatic filters.
• Outdoor pets are covered in ragweed; wash them frequently and don't let pets on the bed.
• Allergens linger in carpets and rugs; Vacuum frequently.

Outdoors• Don't dry your laundry outside.
• Shower after spending extended time outdoors.
• Wear glasses or sunglasses outdoors to prevent pollen from irritating the eyes.
• Minimize your activity between 5 and 10 a.m when pollen is usually emitted.
• A prolonged rain scrubs pollen out of the air, but a brief downpour may cause settled particles to become airborne, raising pollen counts.
• Avoid mowing the lawn or raking leaves; if you cannot avoid yardwork, wear a pollen mask

In addition, experts say proper nutrtion can alleviate or prevent allergies by: helping dilate air passages, thinning the mucus in the lungs and preventing food-allergy reactions that trigger asthma attacks.

Apparently, some of these foods are beneficial to curbing allergies.

1) Apples are rich in antioxidants that improve lung function. Studies have shown that people who ate as many as five apples per week had significantly better lung function than those who did not eat apples.
2) Omega-3 fatty acids are an excellent source for fighting allergies. Other sources include canola oil, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, walnuts and wheat germ. Mix a small amount wheat germ or flaxseed oil in other foods such as yogurt or spaghetti sauce.
3) For all you fish eaters (blech!) out there, eat two to three servings of coldwater fish each week. Try tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel or trout. Grill or bake the fish; don't fry it.
4) Magnesium-rich foods can help reduce respiratory problems. Eat foods like spinach, artichokes, tofu, sunflower seeds, cashews, navy and pinto beans.
5) Use lots of spices when cooking. There are plenty of ingredients that are easy to use that have anti-inflammatory effects. These include ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions and pepper.
6) Dig into foods like yogurt, ground beef, tofu, oysters, crab or dark turkey or chicken for plenty of zinc.
7) Eat citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit for their natural antihistamine effects. Bananas, pineapple and papaya also work.

Along those lines, here are some low-calorie, sucralose-sweetened recipes to add to the menu. Have a great weekend!

Sesame Strawberry Spinach Salad

Homemade Applesauce

Pineapple Yogurt Dip

Grilled Glazed Salmon

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