The blooming of trees and flowers is beautiful for most of us. But for allergy sufferers, it means watery eyes, a runny nose and general discomfort. Fortunately, more and more treatment options are available for seasonal allergies.
There are four ways to treat allergies: allergy avoidance, prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs, natural remedies and immunotherapy.
Antihistamines work against the histamine immediately released by the body during an allergic reaction. Antihistamines are given by mouth or as nasal sprays. Older antihistamines, like Benadryl, cause drowsiness, but many of the newer ones, like Claritin, do not.
The body releases leukotrienes two to four hours after exposure to an allergen. Medicines called leukotriene modifiers, like Singular, are active against this later allergy response.
Nasal steroids are one of the cornerstones of allergy treatment. The most common side effect of nasal steroids is irritation or mild bleeding of the nose. There is some evidence that nasal steroid sprays may increase intraocular pressure or glaucoma. As such, if you have glaucoma and use a nasal steroid spray, it’s important to regularly check your intraocular pressure.
For patients seeking a more natural approach, start with once or twice a day rinsing with a neti pot or saltwater nasal rinse. This simple technique decreases pollen in your nose.
Quercetin is a supplement derived from apples and other plants and taken as a preventive for allergies. It’s often used with bromelain for better absorption. You would usually start quercetin about one month before the allergy season begins. Butter bar also serves as a good natural remedy and works as effectively as antihistamines.
For immediate relief, try taking stinging nettle — as a liquid or tablet —throughout the day. Though if you’re using the blood thinner Coumadin, stinging nettle should be used with caution. There also are many homeopathic tablets taken under the tongue, as a nasal spray or eye drops that are very effective.
Acupuncture is a useful treatment for allergies, especially in regard to sinus pressure. In addition, don’t forget to eat local raw honey a few weeks before pollen season since this seems to decrease allergic reactions.
If medication and herbal remedies can’t control your allergies, look into allergy shots. These are usually given for about two to five years.
An emerging advance in this area is oral immune therapy. This has less potential side effects. In 2006, the World Health Organization recognized evidence that oral immune therapy represented a viable alternative to allergy shots. The European Union uses oral immune therapy treatment; in the United States, we are still awaiting acceptance.
Take advantage of all the treatment options for your seasonal allergy and get out and enjoy the gorgeous sunshine.
Dr. Steinmetz is a board certified family medical doctor based in Alexandria who uses conventional and integrative practices. She welcomes reader questions at email@example.com.