Allergies are usually more acute at certain times of the year (often spring or fall) when the specific allergen reach high concentrations in the air. But many people suffer from allergies for months at a time. Are there natural approaches that can be beneficial in calming allergic reactions?
Q. My allergies cause me to sneeze excessively when I get up in the morning. Eventually the sneezes calm a bit but I sniffle throughout the day, which drives my wife crazy.
I am concerned about the long-term effects of antihistamines and nasal sprays. Is there an alternative to these medications?
The Boomerang Reaction from Allergy Meds
A.We understand your concern about the long-term effects of nasal sprays and antihistamines. We hear from many people who have developed a dependence on their decongestant spray.
Lisa shared this amazing story:
“I was involuntary addicted to Afrin for 24 years and I’m 28! My mom had me use it because of my allergies. BAD CHOICE.
“I came off the decongestant by using Flonase and diluting my last bottle of Afrin with saline everyday! It took about a week and as of now I am completely ok. I’m a little stuffy but nothing like it was before with the rebound nasal congestion. I had migraines, had horrible sleep nights and miserable outings because of that spray and I never want to go through that again.”
Here is Vick’s experience:
“I was also hooked on Afrin for about 30+ years. I had a major heart attack and the cardiologist pulled me off Afrin. I did it the same way I did smoking – just quit and that was that. Yes, for a while I thought I would not be able to breath. A day later I was OK.
“Today I flush my sinus with saline water. (about twice a week or when needed).”
Most people think antihistamines have virtually no side effects. One that is especially popular these days is cetirizine (Zyrtec). Yet we have heard from an astonishing number of people that when they stop this oral antihistamine they go through incredibly unpleasant reactions.
Anonymous shared this story:
“I took Zyrtec for many years (both brand name and generic cetirizine) for allergies. A couple of months ago I decided to go off of it ‘cold turkey’ and I was miserable for a full two weeks. The itching was uncontrollable…and scratching made everything worse.
“I did find a little relief by putting ice packs on my body when I itched, taking quercetin several times a day, going for acupuncture 2x week, yoga/meditation several times a week, and by slathering Sarna cream all over my body.
“It was total torture going off this drug!”
Dave had a similar problem:
“I, too, am experiencing the itching that results from going off this drug. I’ve been taking 10 mg of cetirizine HCI for about 2 years. I got a clue a few times when I forgot to take it, and noticed weird itching within about 24 hours, usually on the hands and feet.
“This time it’s much worse, affecting my whole body, since I’m going without it for 5 days in order to prepare for a visit to an allergist for a thorough allergy screening. It’s a real problem and should certainly be recognized by the medical community and the FDA.”
Other Ways of Controlling Allergy Symptoms
There are actually a surprising number of options, ranging from stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) leaf supplements and vitamin C to butterbur (Petasites hybridus) and NasalCrom nasal spray (cromolyn, originally derived from bishop’s weed or Ammi visnaga).
You can find out much more about these options in our book, Best Choices from The People’s Pharmacy.
One of the best ways for calming allergic reactions is to reduce the burden of allergens to which you are exposed. Best Choices from The People’s Pharmacy has a discussion about HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters for the home, which can help remove many allergens from circulation.