- What is Known About Allergic Rhinitis
- Healthy Steps: Allergic Rhinitis—First Steps
- Healthy Steps: Allergic Rhinitis—Full Program
- From Dr. Deborah's Desk
How does fresh spring air feel at your house? If you’re one of the unlucky ones, despite a beautiful balmy day, you can barely drag yourself out of bed and when you do, it’s only to fetch a new box of tissue. Whether it’s a stuffed or a runny nose, there’s usually a fair amount of itching, swelling, and extra fluids. You dread going outside on that beautiful sunny day because you know springtime pollens will wreak havoc on your system.
No one with season allergies need ever feel alone. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) estimates 60 million of your fellow Americans suffer from hay fever of some sort. Allergic symptoms are produced when your body over-reacts and treats little windblown bits of pollen as nasty invaders. Your body produces histamine in its own defense, and the histamine creates irritation and inflammation, swelling and watery discharges.
Some people’s allergies are truly seasonal – hay fever, while others report allergy symptoms all year long, and their condition is more appropriately called allergic rhinitis. Either case, the symptoms feel like a cold but there is usually more itching and sneezing than with a cold. Symptoms can extend beyond the eyes and nose to include itchy ears and throat, or whole face, sore throat, dry cough, and even headaches with facial pressure or pain. Dark circles may form (called “allergic shiners” by some) and serious fatigue may add to the misery. You may face fatigue or headaches, with very little of the typical hay fever symptom array.
The most common triggers for seasonal allergies are grass and tree pollen (spring and summer), fungus and ragweed (late summer and fall). The most common causes of year-round allergies are dust mites, pet dander, cockroaches, or molds growing in the home or workplace.
Allergic rhinitis and hay fever are more likely to be found in those who have a strong family history of allergies, co-existing allergies to foods or contact allergies showing on the skin. Secondhand cigarette smoke raises the risk, and the condition is more common in men.
Conventional medical treatments include desensitizing injections or antihistamine pills. Severe cases are controlled with inhaled corticosteroids, which work primarily in the nose but definitely have whole body effects as well.
Successful self-care as described below, can result in lifelong relief of allergies.
For the greatest improvement with the fewest steps, do the following:
- Eliminate allergens, both in foods and your environment. Allergies are additive! The first food to eliminate is gluten and, for 30 days, other grains as well. If you suspect more allergens, begin the Paleo Diet or the Elimination diet. When you resume individual foods make an effort to find raw dairy products instead of pasteurized, organic corn instead of GMO corn and grass-fed beef instead of feedlot, antibiotic laden beef. See “foods you are allergic to” below in full program. Eliminate sources of dust and keep surfaces clean in your bedroom.
- Nasal Lavage. With any allergic symptoms, almost all allergens enter the body through the nose. For some people simple salt water rinsing (see below) is effective.
- Pro-Thera Quercetin-Bromelain Forte. Take 1-2 tablets up to 4 times daily.
A comprehensive approach to managing your seasonal allergies involves many areas in which action steps can be taken, gradually or all at once. Start by following our basic nutrition and healthy lifestyle guidelines, with the following modifications:
Savor Helpful Foods
- Wild Alaskan salmon and Wild Alaskan salmon roe and other healthy fish choices. Research shows that regular fish consumption before age 1 appears to be associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease and sensitization to food and inhalant allergens during the first 4 years of life.
- Liver is a powerful healing food. Try eating it fried gently in butter with onions or make chicken liver pate. Make sure your liver is organic and from grass fed beef or pasture-raised chickens.
- Raw dairy. Raw milk has been shown to reduce allergy symptoms in children.
- Get Quercitin containing flavonoids through foods such as apples, berries, red grapes, red onions, capers and black tea, which prevent histamine release-so they are “natural antihistamines.”
- Good fats such as butter and raw cream from pastured animals and lard, rich in vitamin D. Remember that fats, especially animal fats, should be organic.
- Locally produced honey. There is anecdotal suggestion that eating local honey may provide a natural protection against pollen. Not for babies under one year of age, and for everyone remember that honey is still a form of sugar.
Avoid Problematic Foods
- Sugar of all kinds. Stay away from cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, colas, pastries and candies, as well as fructose from high-sugar fruits such as apples and pears, especially in the form of juice.
- Starchy carbohydrates and grains, especially gluten. Wheat, rye, spelt, barley, beer, and other forms of gluten cause allergy. See Gluten-Free Diet or The Paleo Diet for full description.
- Omega 6 fatty acids have been associated with increased allergy symptoms. Avoid processed and fried foods, especially restaurant foods fried in GMO corn, soy and canola oils.
- All refined carbohydrates and processed foods. This includes bread, cakes, cookies, and cereals. Additives in foods are triggers for some people.
- Pasteurized dairy products of all types: milk, cheese and ice cream.
- Foods you are allergic to. Allergic reaction to foods can aggravate hay fever or seasonal allergy symptoms. Besides gluten, other possible triggers include corn, dairy, eggs, onions, chocolate, coffee, tea, citrus, potatoes, soy, peanuts, yeast, pork, and oats. You may have an allergic reaction to more than one of these foods. Although blood and skin testing can indicate possible problems, the definitive way to identify your own allergies is to test yourself. If your experience conflicts with test results, go with your experience. See Allergy Elimination Diet.
Supplements Can Help
- Omega 3 fatty acids are helpful anti-inflammatory tools. Barleans Omega Swirl is tasty and efficient: 1 Tbsp provides a valuable 1000 mg daily.
- Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion Forte 2000 IU. Take 3 drops daily for 6000 IU's.
- Dr. Ron's Ultra Pure Liver. Take 2 capsules daily or eat liver with onions or as pate.
- The Synergy Company Pure Radiance Vitamin C. Take 1 capsule 3 times daily. Loaded with berries and sprouts and naturally occurring co-factors.
- Thorne Research Magnesium Citramate 150mg. Take 2-4 capsules daily.
- Integrative Therapeutics Theracurmin. As a potent anti-inflammatory, this can be helpful during allergy season when taken regularly.
- Pro-Thera Quercetin-Bromelain Forte. Take 1-2 tablets up to 4 times daily.
Daily Life Activities
- Nasal Lavage to rinse out the allergens. Put 1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of warm water that is distilled, sterilized, or previously boiled (not straight tap water.) Try it with or without a pinch of baking soda for comfort. Apply this solution to your nasal passages through a neti pot or pour the water into your cupped palm, tilt your head to the same side, and use your other hand to plug your upper nostril. Gently inhale the water, allowing it to flow in and out of the nose or up into the nose and down behind the nose to the mouth. Repeat three times on each side, wait a minute or 2 (in a steam bath if you can), and gently blow.
- Similasan Allergy Eye Relief. Eye drops are helpful if eye itching or watering is your main allergy symptom.
- Avoid smoke exposure. Don't smoke or be around others' smoking.
- Reduce exposure to outdoor allergens. Close your windows, minimize early morning activities outdoors and stay indoors during windy days. Close car windows while drying. Hire someone to mow the lawn.
- Look for pollen free zones. Take a day trip to the desert, to a different elevation or climate zone, or the beach, to get some outdoor time with less pollen in the air.
- Use a dryer for your laundry. Avoid scented products (soaps or additives)
- Air purifier. A high quality air purifier is worth the investment if you have a serious problem with allergies.
- Avoid synthetic fabrics and scents. Wash all new clothes before wearing. Use natural bedding but check to see if you are allergic to wool, down, or feathers before choosing those natural options.
- Let your children play in the dirt. There is a new theory called “The Hygiene Hypothesis” that we are too clean and don't expose our children to enough bacteria to let them properly develop their immune systems.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom
- Keep bedroom and living areas dust free by vacuuming carpets and/or drapes often.
In general, homeopathic treatment for chronic conditions such as allergies is most effective in consultation with a professional homeopath. However, three remedies deserve mention and are most useful for intermittent episodes of pain. If any of these descriptions fits your symptoms, take the remedy in a 30C potency, a few pellets a day when the pain is bad. Limit remedy use to a few times a week.
Hayfever and allergies typically respond well to homeopathy if there are characteristic symptoms. In general, though a homeopathic remedy may be helpful for an acute allergy attack, often constitutional treatment is required to bring the immune system into balance and can act as a preventative.
Homeopathic remedies are available for purchase from my office.
- Acrid nasal discharge that chafes or wears away the skin of the nose
- Nose may “drip like a faucet.”
- Watery discharge.
- Eyes may tear but tears are bland rather than excoriating like the nasal discharge.
- Eyes are sensitive to light.
- Violent sneezing with obstructed nasal passages due to swelling.
- Often begins on the left side.
- She is better in open air and worse in a warm room.
- Voice maybe hoarse with a tickling in the throat.
- Swelling is marked.
- Eyes maybe nearly swollen shut.
- Face and eyes are burning hot and better with cold applications.
- She is better with cold air and worse from a hot room.
- Sudden piercing pains in the eyes.
- Tears feel hot.
- Nose may be swollen and red with sharp pain.
- He is irritable, restless and jealous.
- Right sided congestion.
- Nose drips, but is extremely obstructed.
- Burning pains in nose, eyes and throat that feel better with heat or hot drinks.
- Worse from cold, open or cold air.
- She feels better indoors.
- She develops sores on inside of nostrils.
- Eyes inflamed and irritated with burning and itching.
- Discharge from eyes is acrid.
- Nasal discharge is bland.
- She is worse in the morning and better at night laying down.
- Post nasal discharge accumulates and causes retching on waking.
- Overwhelming drowsiness and weakness during hay fever.
- Violent and exhausting sneezing in the early morning.
- He is worse being overheated in warm and humid weather.
- He feels as if hot water is pouring from his nose.
- Profuse congestion with nasal discharge that is “egg-like.”
- Symptoms are worse in the open air or wind.
- Lips are chapped and cracked at the corner of the mouth.
- Eyes are very sensitive to sunlight.
- Loss of smell and taste.
- Hay fever in intellectual, repressed patients.
- Terrible sneezing and nasal congestion in morning on rising.
- Watery discharge in the morning, obstruction at night in bed.
- Stuffed up nose starts dripping in a warm room to his relief.
- Better in warm room or with warm drinks.
- Temperament is fiery and zealous with a sensitive nervous system.
- Tremendous fits of sneezing that are debilitating.
- Nasal congestion and sneezing are worse with cold better with heat and warm drinks.&
- Discharge from nose is watery and profuse.
- Every sneeze provokes tears.
- Worse in the open air and smelling flowers (pollen).
- Sensitive to odors.
- Hayfever affects the eyes especially.
- Eyes feel full of sand, eylids are red and crusty.
- Discharge is worse in a warm room or being overheated.
- Chronic dry congestion, dry nasal scabs and easy bleeding.
- Thick yellow discharge alternating with clear mucus.
- Worse on the right side.
If you are susceptible to allergens, there are many things you can do during allergy season to reduce your reactions. Avoid triggers by reducing your exposure to pollen.
Pollen counts are highest on dry windy days. Even laundry hung outside in the spring can track pollen indoors, as can pets and outdoor clothing. Launder both pets and clothing to lower pollen transport, shower and shampoo if you've been out in the wind or garden. Delegate outside chores to non-allergic friends and family, and enjoy outdoor time in the evening and during or after a rainfall.
Indoor air is best kept clean by keeping the windows closed, the air filters clean, and floors well vacuumed. Shaggy rugs and fabrics may tend to hold and recirculate pollen.
Pollen comes from male plants and is spread by the wind. Male plants are often chosen for their neat appearance, particularly in housing developments. Female plants, with large brightly colored flowers, propagate with seeds and are usually not a cause of hay fever. Go for flowers and clean up their petals instead of sneezing!
I have just enough memory of hay fever to have sympathy for hay fever sufferers, but never saw the urgency of suffering so profound as that expressed by my daughter's friend Harry at a school carnival. Usually friendly and easy-going, he came running to me clawing with one hand at his face and the other at my clothing, “You've got to do something!” I sent him toward the bathroom with instructions to rinse everything he was touching: hands, face, eyes, nose, and to return for a nasal spray I thought I had in the car for another delivery. He returned well-scrubbed and needing nothing, a good tip to remember, but showed up at the office a few days later. I showed him how to do a proper saline preparation and nasal irrigation, and told him I had some supplements for him if that didn't work.
Besides nasal lavage, I'd say I've seen the best results with people paying attention during the spring to their minor food allergies, taking vitamin D and fish or cod liver oil, and extra vitamin C. The other supplements listed above have been shown to be helpful in reliable scientific studies, so please - let me know what works for you.