With the pollen all around, it is evident that allergy season is here. It is only a matter of time, if you are sensitive to pollen and other allergen triggers, that you will begin to sneeze, have itchy watery eyes, an itchy throat, a dry persistent cough, a runny nose, and/or a stuffy nose. To make matters worse, you may have one or more of these symptoms all at the same time. It can be quite miserable.
So I wanted to share some tips to help during allergy season and also medication options if needed.
Basic breakdown of the allergy response: (Begins in a few seconds and can even develop over a couple hours)
Step 1: Initial Allergen Exposure
Step 2: Rapid release of Mast Cell mediators (such as histamine)
Step 3: Immune Response Triggered, Cellular Recruitment, such as Leukocytes (white blood cells) are attracted to the sinus mucosa and release an inflammatory response.
Step 4: Symptoms such as nasal secretions, persistent inflammation, stuffy nose, sneezing, etc.
At Home Remedies:
One of the most common food sources of pollen is honey, specifically Raw Honey. Raw honey is taken directly from the beehive, packaged, and sold as is. Because it is so minimally processed, it holds quite a bit of pollen from the bees. Exposing your body to this pollen before allergy season begins, will decrease your sensitivity. A teaspoon a day works similarly to Immunotherapy, where you are exposed to a small amount of your allergen trigger, so that your sensitivity decreases over time.
Let’s face it, you are going to be exposed to pollen and other allergen triggers wherever you go including inside your own home. Invest in a nasal rinse system to flush your nasal cavity daily. If you have chronic or seasonal allergies, it is so important to make this a daily practice. You will have constant buildup of these triggers so flushing them daily will improve your symptoms during the season. I recommend the Neti Pot by Neilmed. If you are having trouble finding this item, click on the link below.
Tumeric is a natural anti-inflammatory root and is a necessary supplement during allergy season. Tumeric will help combat the inflammatory response that your body naturally has to allergen triggers and help alleviate symptoms. You can either add the root to your smoothies, or take a daily supplement. You will notice a difference right away, especially if you have seasonal allergies and begin taking the supplement before the season begins.
Herbal Seasonal Support:
Another Great supplement I came across is Pollen Defense by Herb-Pharm. Combining 5 top herbs for combating allergy symptoms at the source, this is a great alternative to medication and also preventative support during the season. If you like to try herbal products before medication this is a great option. The Five Herbs include Eyebright Flowering herb, Goldenseal, Horseradish, Stinging Nettle, and Yarrow Flowering top. For children, use the Kids Sinus Samurai formulation as this is alcohol free (Herbs include Stinging Nettle, Eyebright Flowering herb, Astragalus root, Reishi mushroom, Dandelion, and Ginger). If you or your children have seasonal allergies, I would recommend that you purchase these right away as they are selling out. You can find these products on the Herb-Pharm website www.herb-pharm.com (currently sold out of Pollen Defense, Kids Sinus Samurai available) or on Amazon (both available). Click the link below to find on Amazon. Note: Make sure to review ingredients and make sure there are no allergies to any of them before using.
If you find yourself suffering from the typical allergy symptoms, there are over-the-counter products that will help. Antihistamines are the top choice for treating symptoms. As a consumer, without a pharmacist’s direction, it can be hard to decide so here are a few pointers.
There are two classes of anti-histamines: First-Generation and Second-Generation
First-Generation Antihistamines compete with histamine and blocks it from binding to it’s receptors subsequently lowering your allergic response. First-Generation antihistamines readily cross the blood-brain barrier so can have effects on the central nervous system (CNS) such as sedation and impaired performance. These medications include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Contac, etc.)
Second-generation Antihistamines block the release of histamine and also helps decrease inflammatory cell recruitment. They do not readily cross the blood-brain barrier so you will have less effects of sedation and less CNS symptoms. Available choices include loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), and levocetirizine (Xyzal) .
When deciding on an antihistamine, decide if you are in a position to be sedated or impaired. If you do not want those effects, chose a second-generation medication first. Start off with one of these medications as over time you will develop a tolerance and have to switch. These medications all work the same but stick with one if it works for you. If you realize you are having a less than optimal response to one medication, then you can switch as these medications have slight chemical differences. Your body will let you know when it is no longer working.
First-generation antihistamines work better than second-generation, however, because they cause sedation, they should be used with caution for allergies.
Over-the-counter nasal sprays that are also great choices during allergy season include NasalCrom (Cromolyn), Flonase, Rhinocort, and Nasacort AQ. Cromolyn is anti-inflammatory and works to stabilize histamine. The other nasal sprays are corticosteroids and help decrease inflammation and swelling. These can be used in addition to the antihistamines if needed.
If you are pregnant, Intranasal Cromolyn is the drug of choice for allergies. However, you can use loratidine and chlorpheniramine as these are listed as Category B.
Decongestants work by stimulating the constriction of blood vessels in the nasal mucosa to release the vessel engorgement and built up fluid in the nasal cavity.
Most antihistamines come with a nasal decongestant to help alleviate nasal congestion. Over the counter options include pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Pseudoephedrine is the best choice for nasal congestion and is sold behind the counter in products such as Sudafed, Claritin-D, Zyrtec-D, etc. Phenylephrine is not as effective as pseudoephedrine and this is should be kept in mind when deciding on a product.
Afrin (Oxymetazoline), a nasal spray, should not be used for more than 3 to 5 days as it can cause a rebound congestion. Keep in mind that this rebound is very difficult to treat.
If you have blood pressure, you cannot take any nasal decongestants without consulting with your doctor first as these can increase your blood pressure if not controlled by medication.
If you are pregnant, you can take pseudoephedrine in a low dosage of 30mg. Use caution when taking.
Lastly, if you are experiencing more symptoms of the eyes and would rather use eye drops, there are options for you. These include Zaditor (Ketotifen), and Visine A.
All of the options listed above are available for children as well. Be sure to purchase the children’s formulation of each product. Zaditor can be used in children as young as 3 years old. Visine A can be used from ages 6 and over.
As the season continues to approach, I hope that this information will help you decide on a product and empower you to make the right choice. If you have any questions, please reach out to me.