Spring is a beautiful time of year but not so much for the millions of North Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies. Blooming flowers and trees means billions of pollen grains hit the air bringing misery to allergy sufferers.
Seasonal allergies are on the rise, affecting as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children. What is responsible for the surge in allergies is not clear. It could be due to changes in our diet (increasing consumption of junk food) and the way food is grown (GMOs and pesticides) to exposure to chemicals in the environment and our ultra-hygienic way of living.
While researchers continue to explore the underlying cause of allergies, we do know what is happening in the body. Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts upon exposure to an otherwise harmless substance—the allergen. For those with seasonal allergies the allergen is tree, grass, or flower pollen. In response to exposure, the body produces antibodies, which trigger the release of inflammatory chemicals, including histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins. This leads to the notorious symptoms: itchy, runny eyes and nose, sneezing and congestion.
Having an allergy skin test is the quickest and most accurate way to determine your specific allergy triggers. Knowing your triggers is important so that you can take steps to avoid them.
There are several over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help manage the symptoms of allergies, but their use is associated with many side effects. Antihistamines, which address symptoms of itching, runny nose, and sneezing can cause drowsiness and dry eyes and nose. Decongestants, such as phenylephrine help sinus congestion but they can be troublesome side effects including insomnia, racing heart, increased blood pressure, and irritability. Those with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or prostate enlargement should avoid these products. Nasal sprays containing decongestants work quickly and are less likely to cause racing heart or high blood pressure, but these products can cause rebound congestion if used for longer than three days.
Considering all the side effects associated with the allergy medications it is not surprising that natural methods for dealing with allergies have become very popular. Here are some natural solutions to combat common allergy symptoms:
For congestion: Nasal irrigation with a Neti pot or nasal wash can help clear pollen and mucus from your nasal passages, relieve congestion and improve breathing. Add a few drops of essential oil, such as eucalyptol to the nasal wash to enhance the effects.
For sneezing and runny nose: Try Allergy Relief by A. Vogel. This natural remedy helps treat the underlying cause of allergies as well as relieve symptoms of sneezing, itchy nose, and scratchy throat. It does not cause drowsiness or rebound congestion. Allergy Relief is available in tablets, drops and spray, and is safe to use in children two years and older.
For red eyes: Try lubricating eye drops or natural tears, to help flush pollen out of your eye. For those with chemical sensitivity look for a product that is preservative-free, in unit dose vials.
For a dry hacking cough: Try a teaspoonful of dark honey. Honey contains various nutrients that help to calm a cough and sooth a sore throat.
For immune support: Add these functional foods to your diet: Molkosan fermented whey promotes healthy intestinal flora. Biotta elderberry juice provides a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidants for immune and respiratory support.
Finding relief from seasonal allergies may involve a variety of lifestyle, supplemental and medical approaches. For more advice, consult with your health care practitioner.