Sprung!! SO HAVE THE ALLERGIES…..
According to the National Center for Health Statistics,
more than 26 million Americans suffer from chronic seasonal allergies and if
we add in those with milder symptoms the number may be as high as 40
million. Expenses for allergy medication runs in the millions of dollars
and trips to the doctor for allergy symptoms runs upward of a billion
For the majority of us, seasonal allergies are an
irritating nuisance but for some the allergic reaction can actually become
life threatening. Adult asthma has been on the increase over the last 10
years and, if environmental allergens are a trigger, the asthmatic can
experience a severe attack that requires emergency intervention.
Spring is generally the worst season for allergies.
This is due to the new growth on trees followed shortly thereafter by
grasses and weeds. However, autumn brings a different set of blooming
plants and molds. Sensitivities to dust mites and animal dander can become
a year around issue for the allergy sufferer.
How does the allergic response manifest?
Allergic reactions are the body’s response to
environmental substances to which the body is sensitive. The symptoms range
from mild itching or sneezing to headaches, hives and wheezing. A severe
reaction can include asthmatic symptoms or anaphylaxis.
It is believed that allergies originated millions of
years ago as a method for the body to eliminate parasites and worms. These
“invaders” are dealt with by an antibody known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
Since parasites and worms are no longer a prevalent issue in modern America,
IgE looks for other foreign substances to fight. IgE causes the immune
cells to release histamine which produces the watery eyes, sneezing,
itching, and hives. Allergies tend to get worse with age due to the amount
of exposure to allergens over the course of our lives.
How can allergies be treated?
The first step is to avoid the allergen if at all
possible. If the allergy is to alder or cedar trees, however, you cannot
live on Whidbey Island and avoid them! If the allergen is dust mites or
indoor in nature, eliminating carpets is a good idea as the carpet holds the
allergen and causes it to re-circulate on a regular basis. Bed linens and
pillows are another attractive “home” for the dust mite so they require
special attention as well. It is important to shower and wash your hair
after being outdoors during allergy season to remove the allergens from your
There are some dietary approaches to help reduce the
effects of seasonal allergies. Dairy products tend to irritate the immune
system so eliminating them often helps. Fruits such as berries and cherries
are rich in antioxidants and can help to modify the body’s inflammatory
response to allergens. Some research has shown that increasing omega-3
fatty acids is helpful so eat some wild Alaska Salmon a couple of times a
week or use fish oil supplements. Ground flaxseeds can also provide the
To treat allergies naturally, freeze-dried stinging
nettles function as an antihistamine without drowsiness. Quercetin and
citrus bioflavanoids have also been effective when used regularly during the
allergy season. There are also homeopathic medicines that have no side
effects and some are even formulated specifically for the Pacific Northwest.
Finally, there are a variety of prescription and over
the counter options for treating the symptoms. Many times antihistamines
are prescribed which are intended to block the histamine response.
Unfortunately many antihistamines cause drowsiness as a major side effect.
Some of the newer antihistamines are marketed as “non-sedating” and people
find fewer problems with drowsiness.