Combat Seasonal Allergy Symptoms with Stronger Immunity

A Guide to Strengthening Your Immune System and Surviving Summer Allergies

Are you dreading spending time outdoors this summer due to seasonal allergies? It's time to take action and fortify your immune system against those pesky allergy symptoms.

Depending on your location, warmer weather brings more pollen into the air, causing common allergy symptoms like itchy, watery eyes, congestion, a runny or stuffy nose, and a sore throat for some people. Spending time outdoors can be quite unpleasant for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, putting a damper on summertime fun.

However, strengthening your immune system may help you combat and reduce seasonal allergy symptoms by increasing your resistance to allergic reactions. Below are 3 strategies for boosting your immunity against allergies this summer season. But before we dive in, let's take a moment to understand the connection between allergies and the immune system.

Allergies and the Immune System

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 U.S. adults suffers from seasonal allergies, which is a type of allergic rhinitis due to plant pollen (also commonly called hay fever). The specific types of plants and trees responsible for triggering seasonal allergies can vary based on individual sensitivities and geographic locations, but pollen remains the common culprit and allergen (a.k.a. something that triggers an allergy).

Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance (an allergen) like pollen. When a person predisposed to allergies first encounters an allergen, their immune system mistakenly identifies it as a threat. During this initial encounter, specialized immune cells called B-cells start producing large quantities of specific antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE) against the allergen.1,2

These IgE antibodies are then picked up by different immune cells known as mast cells and basophils, which are found in various tissues, including the skin, lungs, and digestive system. When the person is exposed to the same allergen again, the allergen binds to the IgE antibodies on the surface of mast cells and basophils, triggering the release of a variety of chemicals – the most significant of which is histamine.

Histamine, which is great for fighting off harmful parasites, triggers the unpleasant symptoms associated with allergic reactions by acting on different parts of the body. For example, Histamine causes the blood vessels to expand and the tissues to swell, leading to symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion. Histamine works with nerves to produce itching. It can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; and it can constrict the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. In severe cases, histamine may cause anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.

3 Ways to Boost Your Immunity Against Seasonal Allergies

Don’t let seasonal allergies spoil your summertime fun! Start strengthening your immune system today to help combat symptoms with the following strategies.

  1. Get More Vitamin C and D

    Both vitamin D and vitamin C are crucial for overall health and have roles in supporting the immune system.

    Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and has been shown to enhance the activity of white blood cells and reduce inflammation. Emerging evidence suggests that vitamin D might play a role in modulating the immune system in a way that could potentially reduce the risk or severity of seasonal allergies. Several studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D can be linked to increased allergy symptoms. 3,4

    Vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant, supports various immune cell functions, helping stimulate the production and function of multiple key immune cells; and protecting cells from damage by free radicals. Known for its antihistamine effect, vitamin C can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions by decreasing the amount of histamine produced by the body.5

  2. Exercise Regularly

    Regular physical activity has been shown to enhance immune function, reduce inflammation, improve lung function, lower stress levels, and improve sleep quality. All of which can help reduce the frequency and severity of allergy reactions.6,7,8

    • Regular exercise can decrease the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are involved in allergic reactions, reducing inflammation in the body.9
    • Regular exercise helps to strengthen respiratory muscles, improving lung capacity and function, which can help alleviate symptoms like congestion and difficulty breathing.10
    • Regular physical activity is a well-known stress reducer, which can help reduce the severity of allergy symptoms because stress can exacerbate allergic reactions by weakening the immune system.11
    • Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality, which is essential for a strong immune system. Good sleep can help the body better manage allergic reactions.12

    However, exercising regularly with seasonal allergies can be challenging. Here are some quick tips to help you stay active:

    • Choose the best time: Exercise when pollen counts are lower, such as early morning or after rain.
    • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and help thin mucus.
    • Check the air quality: Be aware of air quality and avoid outdoor exercise when pollution levels are high, as this can worsen allergy symptoms.
    • Shower after exercise: Rinse off pollen and other allergens from your skin and hair after outdoor exercise.
  3. Stress Less, Sneeze Less

    You've probably heard (and maybe even experienced) that long periods of stress can weaken your immune system. And it's true. Chronic stress takes a toll on your immunity.

    When the body is under prolonged stress, it continuously releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which can suppress the production and effectiveness of immune cells like lymphocytes. This suppression can lead to a weakened immune response. Additionally, chronic stress can cause inflammation, further compromising immune health and contributing to a range of health issues, including autoimmune disorders and chronic illnesses. 13

    Excessive stress has also been shown to significantly impact allergies. For centuries, practitioners even considered allergies a psychosomatic disorder because symptoms often worsened in patients experiencing high levels of psychological stress. Now scientists know why.14

    Chronic stress not only compromises the immune system but also increases the production of histamines (one of the many inflammatory chemicals released by the immune system). This can exacerbate seasonal allergy symptoms and even trigger allergic responses in some individuals. Meanwhile, numerous studies show that psychological interventions have proven to be beneficial in managing allergic conditions.14

Click here to discover 5 strategies for managing your stress levels and stronger immunity this allergy season.

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2Platts-Mills T. The Role of Immunoglobulin E in Allergy and Asthma. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 2001 May 16;164(1): S1–S5.

3Ghaseminejad-Raeini A, et. al. Immunomodulatory actions of vitamin D in various immune-related disorders: a comprehensive review. Front Immunol. 2023 Jul 14;14:950465.

4Bener A, et. al. The impact of Vitamin D deficiency on asthma, allergic rhinitis and wheezing in children: An emerging public health problem. J Family Community Med. 2014 Sep;21(3):154-61.

5Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11):1211.

6Nieman, D., et. al. The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system. J. Sport Health Sci. 2019 May; 8(3): 201-217.

7Fortunato A.K., et al. Strength Training Session Induces Important Changes on Physiological, Immunological, and Inflammatory Biomarkers. Journal of Immunology Research. 2018 Jun 26; 2018: 1-12.

8Nieman, D., et. al. Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2011; 45: 987-992.

9Taherkhani S, et. al. A Short Overview of Changes in Inflammatory Cytokines and Oxidative Stress in Response to Physical Activity and Antioxidant Supplementation. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Sep 18;9(9):886.

10Your lungs and exercise. Breathe (Sheff). 2016 Mar;12(1):97-100.

11Patterson AM, et. al. Perceived stress predicts allergy flares. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2014 Apr;112(4):317-21.

12Alnawwar MA, et. al. The Effect of Physical Activity on Sleep Quality and Sleep Disorder: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2023 Aug 16;15(8):e43595.

13Segerstrom SC, Miller GE. Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychol Bull. 2004 Jul;130(4):601-30.

14Dave ND, et. al. Stress and allergic diseases. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2011 Feb;31(1):55-68