Now that the weather is less dreary and temperatures are on the rise, the spring season is a good time to get a jump start on improving your health – including everything from nutrition to physical activity, and much more.
While we can develop allergies at any time, they are increasingly problematic during the spring months, and as many as 10 million Canadians suffer from spring-related allergies – also known as hay fever. Thanks to a longer-lasting winter across British Columbia and other provinces, allergy season was slightly delayed. However, it’s now here with a vengeance, and while allergy sufferers may already be used to symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itchy, red and/or watery eyes, you may find your symptoms to be particularly worse this year – due in part to higher than average levels of pollen – this according to experts from the Ottawa-based Aerobiology Research Laboratories, which specializes in identification and research of pollen and spores via the operation of 30 different monitoring stations that are strategically placed in highly populated regions throughout Canada. While treating springtime allergies is fairly straightforward, it’s important for Canadians to be as proactive as possible. For example, you’ll often want to get ahead of your allergies as it can take several weeks before certain allergy medications will take effect. While there are many over-the-counter medications (such as decongestant sprays) that you can purchase which will provide you with near-immediate relief, many of these medications are not recommended for long-term use. OTC decongestant sprays, in particular, can lead to a condition known as rebound congestion (also known as rhinitis medicamentosa) with prolonged or excessive use, and in most cases are only recommended to be taken for a few days at most. Rebound congestion can also lead to other health conditions, including snoring and sleep apnea, which can cause further complications for you and your health. Therefore, when using OTC sprays or any other OTC allergy medications, it’s important that you follow directions. There are other nasal sprays that your physician can prescribe which may not cause rebound congestion, as well as medications that you can take in liquid and tablet form (i.e. Benadryl and Reactine), and even eye drops, for allergy relief.
Nicer weather also means people will opt for barbecues rather than using their stoves and ovens to cook – but there are a few hazards you should know about. As with any type of meat, poultry and fish, you’ll want to make sure it’s cooked thoroughly. What you don’t want to do, however, is cook any of these foods over a direct flame or to the point of it being charred. Cooking foods at extremely high temperatures or charring them causes their muscle proteins to react with the heat, resulting in the formation of mutagenic compounds known as heterocyclic enzymes (also known as HCAs), which have been linked to DNA changes within the structure of cells – and, according to some studies, can increase your risk of developing certain cancers by as much as 60%. One way you can reduce the formation of HCAs is by marinating your meats prior to grilling them. It’s also a good idea to choose lean cuts of meat, as well as trim off any visible excess fat. Skin should also be removed from poultry. Doing this limits the dripping of fat, which can also contribute to the charring of meat, while lean cuts are also an overall healthier choice. You can also grill a variety of healthy vegetables, such as zucchini, corn on the cob, green beans and butternut squash.
Warmer weather is also the perfect excuse to get outdoors more often. If you’re used to driving to the local coffee shop, walk there instead. You can also move your regular exercise routine outside by going on jogs, playing a fun outdoor sport such as tennis, baseball or soccer, or even doing outdoor chores like home repairs and gardening. If you are going to be spending quite a bit of time outside, however, you should always be sure to wear sunscreen – as it’s not just the summer weather when the sun’s UV rays can be harmful.
Your sleeping habits are also important to keep in check no matter the reason. As it starts to stay lighter out much later, you may find yourself going to bed later, too. Still, you need to make sure you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. While how much sleep you need depends on age, it’s recommended that adults get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours. You should also set your alarm so that you’re waking up at the same time each morning.