Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and spring is in the air. For many, the changing seasons mean allergies symptoms. Are you one of the forty to fifty million Americans that suffer from allergies? It is estimated that allergies affects between 10% and 30% of all adults and as many as 40% of children. Symptoms may occur at specific times of the year, like spring and fall, or be present year round.
The membranes that line our nasal and bronchial passages contain immune cells called mast cells. These cells respond to allergic triggers by releasing histamine and other chemical mediators that stimulate a cascade of reactions that result in allergic symptoms such as; post nasal drip, dark circles under eyes, (allergic shiners), itchy eyes, throat, and /or ears, sneezing, sinus pressure, runny nose, fatigue, and swelling of the bronchial membranes which can exacerbate asthma.
Patients often complain that the many prescription and over the counter allergy medications become habit forming or have unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness, nasal irritation, or the feeling of being “wired.”
Here are a few easy ways that you can reduce your exposure to allergens and manage allergy symptoms naturally.
- Allergen avoidance: reduce your allergic burden by limiting exposure to as many irritants or allergic triggers as possible. There are many substances that can trigger reactions in individuals, such as pollens, molds, foods, pet dander, dust mites, exposure to smoke, down fillings in comforters or pillows, or scented body care or cleaning products. While we can’t live in a bubble, there are a few ways to help decrease your exposure.
- Identify allergens: blood tests (RAST) or skin scratch tests can help you identify which allergens may be provoking your symptoms. There are no tests that are 100% accurate, but allergy testing for common allergens in our region can be a good start.
- Keep windows closed during high pollen counts, use air conditioning while driving instead of having the windows open.
- Consider using a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter in the bed room to remove airborne allergens.
- If you have dust mite allergies, dust-proof your bedroom by removing wall-to-wall carpets, remove down-filled blankets and feather pillows, and wash sheets in hot water to kill dust mites. Consider encasing your mattress and pillow in an airtight, dust-proof cover.
- Nasal lavage: a simple saline rinse can work wonders during allergy season by washing away pollens and other allergens. Rinsing with a neti pot or saline spray helps to reduce nasal/sinus congestion which can lead to sinusitis. You can make your own solution by mixing ¼-1/2 tsp of sea salt into 1 cup of lukewarm to flush your sinuses. Lean over a sink with your head slightly tilted to one side, then put the spout of a netipot into one nostril and allow the water to drain out the other nostril. Use about half of the solution, then repeat on the other side, tilting your head the opposite way. Gently blow out each nostril to clear them completely.
- Neti pots are available at most health food stores and come with easy to follow directions for use. You can also watch a video on Youtube for further instructions. Rinse nasal passages with a neti pot or saline spray twice a day during allergy season, and after exposure to allergens.
There are a wide variety of safe and effective nutritional supplements that can prevent and relieve allergy symptoms. For best results, start a week or two before allergy season. The following natural therapies can be used alone or in combination:
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is an amino acid derivative that thins mucus and is a powerful anti-oxidant. NAC helps to break down thick mucus in sinus and bronchial passages and promote expectoration. It has traditionally been used as a decongestant.
- Quercetin: Quercetin is a natural bioflavonoid found in many foods such as onion, apple, tea and wine. Quercetin has antioxidant, anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory activity and helps to stabilize mast cells and prevents them from releasing chemical mediators such as histamine that trigger allergy symptoms.
- Stinging Nettles: (Urtica dioica) The leaves of this mineral- rich plant have a long history of use treating allergy symptoms. Nettles can safely be used as a natural antihistamine. Be careful handling the fresh plant, as the tiny hairs contain formic acid and live up to the name “stinging nettle.” It is most often Best form for allergy relief is found in freeze-dried capsule or chewable tablets.
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids: Vitamin C and bioflavonoids have a multitude of benefits for allergy season and beyond. This powerful antioxidant helps to strengthen blood vessels, collagen for healthy connective tissue, and support for a healthy immune system. For allergy season, vitamin C degrades the chemical mediator, histamine, to decrease allergy symptoms.
- Figure out what you are allergic to, decrease your exposure, and consider some natural treatments for allergy prevention and treatment.
- As with any condition, consult with a qualified practitioner if you are pregnant, nursing or taking prescription medications.
- I hope that this will help you to get out there and enjoy the changing season! Happy Spring!!!
Products, information, and services found in on this website, or any subsidiary are intended to be used for education purposes only. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease, nor are the views expressed by Amanda Levitt, ND intended to be a substitute for conventional medical services. If you or a family member has a medical problem, or if you suspect that you or a family member has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.
Dr. Amanda M. Levitt is a mother of three and a naturopathic physician with a specialty in natural family medicine. She treats her patients with a unique integrative approach, emphasizing education as well as natural therapies including diet, herbal medicine, nutritional supplementation, counseling, stress reduction, and lifestyle modifications.
Dr. Levitt is a Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate from the University of Arizona, and earned her doctorate in naturopathic medicine with honors from Bastyr University. She has been practicing as a board certified naturopathic physician for nearly 15 years. Dr. Levitt is an owner and practicing physician at Whole Health in Hamden, CT which has been voted the best natural health facility year after year in the greater New Haven area.
In addition to her thriving private practice, Dr. Levitt consults for Middlesex Hospital’s Integrative Medicine Residency program, helping to train medical doctors in the science and art of natural medicine.
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