Cough, Wheeze, Sneeze! It’s Allergy Season

Cough, Wheeze, Sneeze!  It's Allergy SeasonBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Our immune systems protect us against harmful substances such as viruses and bacteria.  When our sensitive immune systems mistake a normally harmless substance for a dangerous foreign invader, it triggers an abnormal series of reactions.  Exposure to allergens stimulates the production of antibodies which attach themselves to mast blood cells found in the airways and intestinal tract.  Once bound, the cells release histamines which play a major role in allergic reactions.  Histamines are the culprits behind the sneezing, itching, runny nose and the general miserable feeling experienced by those suffering with allergies. 

Allergy symptoms range from mild to moderate to severe depending on an individual’s sensitivities.  Reactions can involve airways, sinuses, nasal passages, digestive system and the skin.  Those most at risk for developing allergies include:

  • Individuals with a family history of asthma, eczema or hay fever have an increased risk of sensitivity.  When one parent is allergic, the inherited tendency is 50%.  When both parents have allergies, the risk jumps to 75%.
  • Children are more likely to develop allergies.  Many children have a tendency to outgrow allergies which may return later in life. 
  • People with asthma are more likely to develop other allergies if they have any type of allergic condition. 

Allergic reactions can be triggered in the following ways:

  • Skin contact.  Poisonous plants, animal scratches and pollen can cause skin rashes, itching and hives.
  • Injection.  Wasp and bee stings can cause swelling, itching, hives, shortness of breath and in severe cases anaphylaxis, a life threatening emergency. 
  • Ingestion.  Medications and foods can cause stomach upset, abdominal pain and cramping, swelling of the tongue and throat, and anaphylaxis. 
  • Inhalation.  Dust, pollen, mold, mildew and animal dander can cause stuffy or runny nose, excess mucous production, itchy nose and throat, coughing and wheezing. 

Typical allergy medications include:

  • Antihistamines which work to block or prevent the production of histamines reducing allergy symptoms.  Antihistamines can have side effects such as dry mouth, drowsiness and restlessness. 
  • Decongestants help to reduce swelling in the nasal passages, relieve pressure and improve airflow.  Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than 3 days as they can have a rebound effect that can potentially worsen congestion.
  • Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatories for severe allergic conditions.  Corticosteroids can have significant benefits. However, they affect your entire body so they can produce  major side effects such as elevated blood pressure, mood swings and weight gain. 

The good news is that you may be able to treat your allergy symptoms with supplements and lifestyle strategies.  Be proactive by trying some of these lifestyle remedies that can lessen or alleviate symptoms. 

  1. Exposure to airborne allergens such as dander and dust mites can be reduced by frequent washing of bedding and clothing, replacing your vacuum filter with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and vacuuming often.
  2. Maintain low humidity in your home.  Reduce moisture in your kitchen and bath with ventilation fans and dehumidifiers to help decrease mold and mildew allergens. 
  3. Avoid known allergens such as foods and medications to cut the risk of severe reactions.
  4. Track  your reactions  to identify triggers and give yourself a better chance of avoiding them.
  5. If you have air conditioning, keep your windows closed to keep pollen outdoors, especially at dawn and dust when pollen counts are highest.  Installing HEPA filters can help keep the indoor air clean. 
  6. Bathe pets often to reduce dander and keep them out of your bedroom.
  7. Carpets and drapes are dust collectors.  Replace them with shades and hard floor coverings where possible.
  8. Make your home and car non-smoking areas. 
  9. Shower to remove pollen and allergens after spending time outdoors. 
  10. The use of a Neti Pot with hypertonic saline wash can flush allergens from your nasal passages. 
  11. Spicy foods containing chili peppers may reduce congestion. 
  12. An anti-inflammatory diet and deep breathing exercises can alleviate stress induced asthma. 
  13. Acupuncture, an ancient medical practice, has shown promising results in relieving allergic rhinitis. 
  14. If you have had severe reactions in the past, a medical alert bracelet can let others know of your condition should you have another serious episode. 

Allergic responses amplify inflammation.  Be sure to include plenty of Omega-3’s in your diet to reduce inflammation and promote general health.  Ginger and tumeric are powerful anti-inflammatories that can help reduce nasal and sinus inflammation. 

Here are some very popular supplements that may help reduce some of your allergy symptoms:

Natural D-Hist  by Ortho Molecular is a top seller that offers optimal support for nasal and sinus passageways.  This product contains Quercetin, an anti-inflammatory that helps stabilize mast cells and block the release of histamines, and Bromelain,  which has proven mucolytic properties that reduce nasal swelling and support normal mucosal tissue function.  In addition, Bromelain enhances the absorption of quercetin.

Sinatrol by Ortho Molecular has proven inhibitory activity on inflammatory mediators and organisms known to be associated with chronic sinus conditions.  The standardized nutrients and botanicals in Sinatrol help support microflora balance, promote normal mucus viscosity for healthy sinus function and promote a balanced inflammatory response.

Sinus Rinse Premixed Packets by NeilMed contain a patented mixture of USP grade sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate of the purest quality available.  Sinus Rinse is a natural soothing saline nasal wash. Nasal Irrigation is an excellent way to clean mucus, allergens, irritants, bacteria and viruses from the nose reducing the frequency of infection. Rinsing also helps decrease swelling and increase air flow.

Aller-C Quercetin and Bioflavonoids by Vital Nutrients is a potent and effective combination formula used for maintaining and supporting proper levels of enzymes and physiologic factors necessary for normal respiratory function. 

Butterbur Extra by Vitanica has anti-inflammatory properties that decrease swelling in the nose and relieve itchy eyes.  Butterbur does not cause drowsiness, a common side effect of antihistamines. 

OmegaGenics EPA-DHA 720 by Metagenics features a highly concentrated source of beneficial omega-3 essential fatty acids from cold-water fish with the appropriate EPA and DHA to reduce the inflammatory response. 

ProEPA Lemon Flavor 1000mg by Nordic Naturals contains concentrated pharmaceutical grade molecularly distilled omega-3 deep sea fish oils.