With Spring around the corner, and winter illness almost behind us, allergy season will soon be here. Though spring time is notoriously known as allergy season, any time of year can bring on allergy symptoms. Allergies are due to a hypersensitivity of the immune system causing an inappropriate response to an otherwise harmless substance known as an allergen. The body produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) triggering the release of a chemical called histamine into the blood. Allergies can cause symptoms throughout the whole body. Allergies tend to be more common in children however, they can develop at any age. Some of the most common causes of allergies include environmental triggers such as pollen, trees, grass, dust, mold, insect bites, animal fur, medications and particular foods.
Hay fever (aka allergic rhinitis), eczema, hives, asthma and food allergy are some of the types of allergic disease we see. Symptoms caused by allergies can range from a mild (ie runny nose) to a life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis).
Here are some common signs and symptom seen with allergies.
- Constant runny/stuffy nose (year-round symptoms are more suspicious for allergens, like dust mites).
- The “allergic salute” – constantly rubbing the nose in an upward direction, often causing a horizontal crease across the tip of the nose.
- “Allergic shiners” – those persistently dark circles under your the eyes that don’t go away no matter how much sleep they get.
- Itchy, watery eyes with clear, mucousy discharge
- Mouth-breathing or snoring – unless they’re sick with a cold, kids should NOT snore!
- Persistent cough, especially when laying down, most likely from postnasal drip pooling in the back of the throat.
- Frequent sneezing in the absence of a cold
- Frequent throat clearing, especially first thing in the morning.
- Eczema or other frequent itchy rashes.
Symptoms associated with food allergies can include:
- Skin rash, redness, hives, dryness, peeling or itchiness
- Tingling or itchy sensations in the mouth and on the lips
- Swelling of the tongue, lip, throat or face
- Itchy nose, congestion and stuffiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea and abdominal cramps
- Coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing (symptoms of asthma that can sometimes be triggered by allergies)
- Dizziness, lightheadedness and in severe cases loss of consciousness
There are several ways to test for allergies. It is best to consider the most non-threatening, non-invasive tests when dealing with younger kids. Typical tests include a blood draw via a finger prick or venous draw, intradermal or skin prick test, electrodermal testing or testing for gut integrity. When an allergy to a food is being considered, eliminating the food(s) is one of the best ways to determine the culprit. Establishing the triggers of symptoms can be extremely beneficial for proper treatment.
Allergy symptoms can be quite disruptive and uncomfortable. As mentioned above, foods can certainly be a trigger. There are several dietary considerations that can make a difference for allergy sufferers. This can be tricky though, since some of the foods that are beneficial may also be triggers and aggravate the symptoms. If there is suspicion that a particular food is a trigger, it is best to avoid it.
- Eat a whole foods diet full of lots of fruits and vegetables. Eat the color of the rainbow to ensure that all the essential vitamins and minerals are consumed.
- Consume omega-3 rich foods like salmon and other safe seafood (as long as there is no allergy).
- Eat foods high in Quercetin, a bioflavonoid that stabilizes the release of histamine and has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Foods rich in quercetin include onions and shallots, apples, grapes, berries, broccoli and cauliflower, cherries and green and black tea.
- Local honey taken daily 2-3 months before allergy season begins has been shown to lessen symptoms. 1-2 teaspoons a day is all you need.
- Avoid dairy since it can thicken mucus and trigger a histamine reaction.
- Avoid foods that contain natural histamine or trigger histamine release such as avocado, dried fruit, chickpeas, lentils, vinegar, bananas, chocolate, citrus fruits, strawberries, pineapple and tomatoes. Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives can cause the release of histamine as well.
- Avoid foods that cross react with the pollens known to be triggers.
- Ragweed Pollen – bananas, zucchini, cantaloupe, sunflower seeds, cucumber.
- Grass Pollen – melons, oranges, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, wheat.
- Alder Pollen – almonds, apples, cherries, celery, hazelnuts, parsley, peaches, pears.
- Birch – apples, plums, carrots, cherries, fennel, walnuts, pears, potatoes, peaches, wheat.
In addition to dietary considerations, there are a variety of natural treatments and remedies that can significantly reduce allergy symptoms without the concern of side effects (drowsiness, restlessness and moodiness and even delayed growth) as seen with prescription and over the counter medications.
- Xlear nasal spray or sinus rinses can help remove allergens that are inhaled through the nose.
- D-Hist and D-Hist Jr by Orthomolecular, a blend of natural flavonoids, enzymes, antioxidants and botanicals targeted to support the challenges of seasonal allergy symptoms.
- Quercetin (Isoquercetrin by Integrative Therapeutics)
- Vitamin C and Magnesium
- Homeopathic medicines such as Sabadil and Optique eye drops by Boiron
- Essential oils can be beneficial
Allergies do not have to ruin the season. Be proactive and take control of your allergy symptoms.