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Seasonal Allergies? Already?

allergies_drsamanthaEvery year around this time I get an influx of patients who are sick. Runny nose, cough, irritated eyes, full ears. And often enough it’s the same patients year after year. I get out my thermometer, stethoscope, peek in their ears and ask “Are you sure it’s not your allergies acting up?” “Oh, right! But isn’t it too early?” Some hop right on Claritin or Zyrtec and it’s a done deal. For others, this doesn’t work as well as they would like or there are too many bothersome side effects. And in some cases it doesn’t work at all. Most who seek care with me are willing to take a medication if it’s a last resort but would prefer to address things as much as possible on their own. Or at least with a lower dose or a less heavy hitting medication.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll notice that I tend not to write entries that suggest that you ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ to treat any given condition. That’s not about keeping secrets, it’s about doing my part to advocate for what we do best as naturopathic physicians. What makes our approach unique is that each person is treated with a slightly different approach, no matter what the “diagnosis.” In our office, anyway. We believe simply that there isn’t one test, drug, herb, nutritional approach or supplement that should be thrown at all patients.

So given that, there are four basic tenets to how we approach allergic patients. Though there are some things that are very patient specific there are also some things that anyone can do to help decrease symptoms.

1. Avoid exposure to your offending allergens. If you don’t know what they are, get tested. You don’t necessarily have to treat them the way the allergist wants you to, that’s your call, but knowing specifically what you’re allergic to may help you figure out how to at least decrease your exposure. Here are some other ways to decrease general allergen exposure.

  • Neti pot or other sinus irrigation. Please use distilled or boiled water or you may end up with a brain eating amoeba (ok that’s unlikely but it did happen once, somewhere, so better safe than sorry.)
  • Use air purifiers in as much of your home as you can. Non –negotiable in the bedroom.
  • Wash your hair before you go to bed, or rinse it at least. When you’ve been walking around all day you get pollen in your hair then roll your face around in it all night.
  • No “day clothes” in bed. Or even get out of outside clothes entirely when you get home if you have severe allergies.
  • If you suspect a dust mite allergy at all (via testing or waking with allergic symptoms.) Get barrier covers for your mattress, sheets AND comforter. If you use blankets, wash them weekly.
  • Don’t dry your clothes outside.
  • If working in the yard really irritates you see if you can pawn this off on another family member or source it out. Wear a mask if you need to.

2. Thin mucus.

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Consider supplements that have this function. We call these mucolytics. There are a number out there and this is one of those places where it is really best to tailor prescribe.

3. Stabilize mast cells- the cells that release the chemicals that cause allergies into your bloodstream and local tissue.*

  • Vitamin C.
  • Quercetin and bioflavonoids.

4. Balance the immune system. This is the most complicated part of addressing allergies. Allergies are your immune system inappropriately overacting to a stimulus. Folks who suffer with allergies often get sick more often than their non-allergic peers because their bodies are so busy fighting off that crazy dangerous pollen they don’t have the resources to fight off a virus, or bacteria. Not to mention that viruses and bacteria find the dark damp milieu of the allergy sufferer’s respiratory tract the perfect environment for settling in and multiplying.  It’s a fine balance that we address with personalized nutritional recommendations (though for everyone, watch the sugar- it decreases immune function, and watch the dairy, it makes more mucus.)

* I’m working on a short video that explains the nuts and bolts of this process, so if you’re interested, sign up for our weekly newsletter. The plan is to give a weekly health tip, links to our new blog posts, and a running list of current important bits of health news!

This website is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for individualized medical or professional advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your personal physician regarding the applicability of any information on this site.

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