Treating Seasonal Allergies
© 2005 Katherine Poehlmann, Ph.D.
Spring and summer are the times when many people are affected, sometimes seriously, by pollen allergies. Of course, if you can avoid the blooming plants, and get out of harmís way, thatís ideal. But few of us ordinary folks have vacation homes to escape to. So, what are some practical things we can do to minimize seasonal allergy attacks?
Consider that windblown pollens and mold spores cling to our clothes, hair, and skin when weíre outdoors. With this in mind, do everything possible to minimize the influx of pollen to your living space.
∑ Do a thorough Spring Cleaning before allergy season (mopping and vacuuming)
∑ Mop and vacuum more often during the season
∑ Steam clean carpets (shampooing just moves dirt around)
∑ Keep windows shut as much as possible (house and car)
∑ Avoid using circulating fans that just blow pollen around
Not all allergy attacks are triggered by pollen. Dust mites are equally capable of causing irritation to eyes, nose, and throat. Dust mites are amazing microscopic scavengers that live on cast off human skin. Colonies grow in bedding, feather pillows, towels, cloth furniture, drapes, and carpets as long as there is a steady food supply. Frequent laundering (at least weekly) in hot water or dry cleaning limits the colonies.
Bathe or shower before going to bed. Otherwise, the dead skin accumulated on your body during the day is transferred to your bedding, making a feast for dust mites. What triggers allergy symptoms is not the mites per se, but the fecal matter they exude. It dries and becomes airborne, like pollen granules. Research has shown (Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, January 2002;26:60-64) that regular alcohol intake was associated with increased blood levels of dust mite-specific IgE antibodies. Ongoing studies indicate that drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol is likely to adversely affect the immune systemís ability to control allergic reactions.
Keep pets off furniture. They not only bring in pollen (including burrs and grasses) from the outdoors (transferring it to couches, chairs, and beds), their dead skin also sloughs off (providing food for dust mites), and their jumping on furniture stirs up dust mites, mold spores, and other allergy-causing airborne particles.
There are many herbal remedies for allergic rhinitis that have been popular for decades: nettles, garlic, cayenne, feverfew, skullcap, ginger, peppermint, picrorrhiza kurroa, schisandra, and turmeric. Some of these are available in combinations. One of these is called ALLER-7‘, distributed through Natureís Plus.
The bioflavonoid Quercetin blocks the histamine reaction and reduces inflammation in mucous membranes. It is naturally found in grapes, grapefruit, onions, berries, green vegetables, legumes, green tea, and blue green algae. Many studies have shown Quercetin to control symptoms of asthma and hay fever, but it has many other benefits: stabilizes connective tissue; is anti-viral, anti-tumor, and anti-cancer; modulates the endocrine system; reduces stress; protects against herpes and polio viruses; prevents eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma; reduces inflammation of the gastric and respiratory tracts. Quercetin as a supplement may be difficult to absorb, so many nutritionists recommend taking it with bromelain, which is valuable in clearing up sinusitis.
Raw honey contains pollen dust and may help build resistance to certain allergens.
Blessed thistle helps loosen mucus and phlegm, and strengthens lung tissue.
Ma huang is a natural antihistamine, popular for centuries in Chinese medicine.
Vitamin C in large doses (up to 4,000 mg) can be helpful, especially when taken together with magnesium (400 mg) per day.
While suffering allergy symptoms, avoid consuming FD&C yellow #5 dyes, BHT-BHA, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and vanillin.
Extracts of Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) have been used effectively to treat whooping cough, bronchial asthma, muscle spasms, headache, and allergic rhinitis. This herb is native to Europe, north Africa, and southwest Asia. It is also called butter dock, bog rhubarb, capdockin, flapperdock, langwort, and exwort. Studies have shown it to be as effective as commercial antihistamines but without the sedative effects.
Most over-the-counter (OTC) oral antihistamine medications are effective only for a short time and may make you sleepy and listless. Products like Allegra‘, Seldane‘, and Claritin‘ are formulated for somewhat less drowsiness. The antihistamine Chlorpheniramine maleate is the active ingredient found in many OTC remedies. The difference in price depends on packaging and the companyís advertising costs. Shop by price, but just be sure the product has the USP (United States Pharmacopia) seal of approval and is not out of date. Steroid nasal sprays, eye drops, and inhalers may be helpful for some, but they have been known to cause an intensified reverse effect that worsens the problem and creates an even greater reliance on these products.
In severe cases, corticosteroid† drugs may be prescribed , but be advised that these cortisone products (like prednisone) have serious side effects when used over the long term: infections, peptic ulcers, eye problems, bloating, water retention, heart failure, bruising, loss of potassium, and osteoporosis. Check with your doctor about which medications are right for you. Do not take any corticosteroid when pregnant or nursing. For best results, itís advised to take allergy medications 30 minutes before exposure to allergens. Never consume alcohol or sleeping pills while taking antihistamines.
Allergy shots may prove helpful as a desensitizing measure, but the success rate varies with the individual and type of allergy being treated.
Acupuncture has been found to be effective for certain types of allergies, not as a cure, but as temporary relief of symptoms.
Keep your immune system healthy and better able to fight off foreign invaders (seasonal pollens and other airborne particles): avoid junk foods, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, white sugar, white flour foods, and too much salt.
The immune systemís fight against allergens produces lots of ďpost battle debrisĒ that must be eliminated from the body lest it settle in the joints and organs as toxic material. Eat lots of high fiber foods and drink plenty of pure water to flush these toxins.
Note: This article deals with seasonal allergies. Be aware that some people suffer year-around from sensitivities to foods and chemicals (ingested, touched, aspirated), and these constant reactions are often made worse by seasonal events like pollen release. These unfortunate people fall into two groups: those who are genetically hypersensitive and those who develop sensitivities later in life. These categories will be discussed in a future article.
General points made in this article come from a variety of sources, including publications by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, Dr. Linda Hinderliter (www.vitaminlady.com), American Academy of Environmental Medicine, and Dr. Atkinsí Vita-Nutrient Solution (Fireside, 1998).
Dr. Poehlmann is the author of Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection, available at Amazon.com and major bookstores, or click here to order now.