Do you sniffle through spring or feel crummy in the fall? Many people suffer with seasonal allergies, and trying to figure out which medicines make sense is no easy task. To start with, how do you know if you are sneezing from a cold or from hay fever? Why does the answer change the kind of treatment you might choose? When does it make sense to see an allergist?
Pollen is a very common allergen, but it is by no means the only trouble-maker. Even indoor allergens such as mold or pet dander can cause a lot of misery. Allergy expert Dr. David Peden describes the tests that may help you figure out what is causing your uncomfortable reaction. Even more important, he addresses these questions. How reliable are these tests? What do you do with the information?
If you walk into a pharmacy and check the shelf of antihistamines and decongestants marketed for seasonal allergies, you may feel overwhelmed. So many products compete for your attention that it can be difficult to choose. What should you be looking for, and what are the pitfalls?
One aspect that people are rarely warned about is the potential for an unpleasant withdrawal reaction. Rebound congestion is a common problem for people who have used a decongestant nasal spray such as Afrin for more than a few days. Some folks end up “addicted” to their nose drops for years. In addition, stopping some antihistamines suddenly (especially cetirizine and levocetirizine) can trigger unbearable itching.
You may do well with prescription medications for seasonal allergies. Drugs such as steroid nasal sprays to calm inflammation, cromolyn to prevent histamine release and immunotherapies to avoid a cascade of inflammatory compounds can be helpful.
Nondrug approaches are also important. Get rid of the mold and mildew in your crawl space to breathe easier all year long. During the time when your seasonal allergies are most intense, take off your shoes and wash your clothes when you come in from outside.
We also discuss the benefits of rinsing nasal passages with a neti pot and learn which supplements, such as stinging nettle and quercetin, can be helpful. Our interview with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog offers a number of alternative approaches to dealing with seasonal allergies.
David Peden, MD, MS, is the Harry S. Andrews Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Senior Associate Dean for Translational Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is Chief of the Division of Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology in the Department of Pediatrics and Director of the Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma & Lung Biology.
Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements, herbal medicine and women’s health. Her latest book is Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More. For more information, see her website: drlowdog.com.
She is offering a free video course in Herbal Medicine Making at www.MedicineLodgeRanch.com. You can learn to make four different helpful herbal remedies in your own home, including the golden milk Dr. Low Dog discusses in this interview.