Spring Has Sprung!!  SO HAVE THE ALLERGIES…..

By:  Karen Carbone


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 dollars.


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 body.


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 omega-3’s needed.


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.


The above article is general information that is in no way intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any medical condition.  Further it is not intended, nor recommended, that this information
be used without the supervision of your medical provider.