CareNow® - April 03, 2017

Coughing, sneezing and congestion starts to build as spring progresses. CareNow® is here to offer advice for finding allergy relief at this time of year when allergies and asthma attacks are most prevalent.  We can’t guarantee you’ll make it through springtime completely allergy-free. However, we can give you some advice on avoiding common allergens.

Have you noticed a flare up in your allergies?

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What is an allergy?

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When your body encounters foreign pathogens, its natural response is to attack them. This response often presents itself as inflammation. Keep in mind this is only in regards to outside triggers of inflammation and not your body mistaking itself for a harmful object, a response known as an autoimmune disorder.

Inflammation is the body's attempt at self-protection. An inflammatory reaction occurs to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants or pathogens and to begin the body’s healing process.

If you suffer from the dreaded runny nose, excessive sneezing and itchy eyes during allergy season, you may be experiencing a pollen allergy. Pollen, a foreign pathogen, is a large factor and trigger for why mucus accumulates every spring and/or summer depending on where you live.

Allergist and immunologist Evan Atkinson, MD, of Tulane Medical Center had this to say about what causes allergies:

“Spring allergies tend to stem from tree pollen. There's nothing about the wood or leaves that you're allergic to. It's pollen that trees release in the spring when they are trying to make baby trees that causes allergies.”

If you live in an area where pollen counts are high, you may experience this “hay fever.” This presents a challenge during the beautiful spring and summer months when the temptation to spend time outside is high – how are you supposed to hike, picnic and barbeque with all that pollen from trees and flowers in the air?

Common symptoms for hay fever and other seasonal allergies include: 

  • Stuffy nose and congestion
  • Itchy feelings in nose, mouth, eyes and throat
  • Itchy skin
  • Sneezing and coughing

How can someone with spring allergies find relief?

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  • Avoid the substances you know you are allergic to
  • Take anti-histamines and nasal sprays, which are available over the counter to alleviate symptoms, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) being the most potent of these
  • Ask for prescription medication from your doctor if you suffer from asthma or more severe allergies
  • Get in the habit of washing your hands frequently and showering daily to remove allergens from your body
  • Keep air filters clean by changing them frequently and keep the windows and doors to your home closed
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • Remove your clothes after spending time outside and wash them before wearing them again
  • Avoid long baths and apply daily moisturizer to help protect your skin

Natural Remedies To Try

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While most families may run to the drugstore and stock up on over-the-counter medications for seasonal illnesses, many prefer natural alternatives.

Improving your diet can actually help reduce the severity of reactions to allergens. Just like an unhealthy diet affects you negatively, a healthy targeted diet can help alleviate your seasonal allergies.

For example, a simple adjustment includes adding the following to your diet when you can tell you’re getting sick: 

  • Bone broth

Have you ever wondered why your grandma always gave you a bowl of delicious chicken soup when you got sick?

Chicken contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky. As a result, you can cough more easily instead of turning to over-the-counter drugs for congestion relief.

Here is the basic science behind it: A study published in Chest journal states that “eating chicken soup (ideally homemade) during a respiratory infection reduces the number of white blood cells, which are the cells that cause flu and cold symptoms.”

  • Apple cider vinegar

Vinegar in any form tastes and smells unpleasant when drinking it straight. However, you may want to give it another chance when you hear about the numerous health benefits associated with it.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of those miracle foods that can be used for almost everything. It’s produced by crushing apples and squeezing out all the liquid. Bacteria and yeast are added to the liquid to start the fermentation process, and the sugars turn into alcohol. In the second part of the process, the alcohol is converted into vinegar by acetic acid-forming bacteria. Acetic acid and malic acid give vinegar its sour taste.

Fermented foods, such as ACV, have an extremely high amount of probiotics in them, which by themselves can help boost your immune system and fend off seasonal allergies.

But specifically how does ACV help with fighting allergies? It does so by fighting the source of the mucus buildup, which is a direct cause of a sinus infection.

The acidic, antiseptic and antibacterial properties of ACV eliminate the harmful bacteria and prevent the infection from becoming chronic.

Unfortunately for those who may loathe the taste and smell, the best way to consume ACV for your allergies and sinuses is to simply drink it. This helps in breaking up and removing the mucus in your airways.

We recommend always diluting ACV with water to help with taste, and to avoid burning your mouth and throat.

  • Garlic

If you recall, pollen and other causes of seasonal allergies can result in inflammation of your body.

These allergens cause the immune system to act up, triggering allergy symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing. This is due to your white blood cells releasing histamine to protect your body from invading toxins.

However, when histamine levels become too high, inflammation can flare up. This can lead to symptoms like headaches, diarrhea, sinus congestion or itchy skin. You may be familiar with the term “antihistamines” from over-the-counter medication aimed at tackling allergy symptoms.

Dr. Thomas Veech, MD of Retreat Doctor’s Hospital had this to say about antihistamines:

“Antihistamines are medications that block histamine, a substance released by the body in response to allergens. Some oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, can cause drowsiness and may be best when taken at night. Antihistamines in the form of a nasal spray are only available by prescription and typically are used to treat more severe allergy symptoms. Nasal antihistamines directly target the nasal passages, but may cause a bitter taste and/or headache.”

But what does this all have to do with garlic?

Garlic is an incredibly effective natural antihistamine. Garlic is a superfood that helps relieve and treat allergy symptoms such as difficulty breathing, sneezing and watery eyes.

Garlic also helps the immune system work naturally by attacking the free radical cells, also known as allergens, and removing them completely from the bloodstream.

  • Local honey

Older studies from the early 2000s claimed honey does not help with seasonal allergies. But more recently, a study published in 2011 that dealt specifically with raw birch honey revealed some new research and the results were bee-autiful!

This study had patients diagnosed with birch pollen allergies try two different forms of treatment: one group would take daily servings of honey during the allergy off-season (November through March) while the control group would only use their prescribed or over-the-counter medications to control their seasonal allergy symptoms.

Patients were then asked to record their symptoms and use of medication during the height of allergy season (April through May).

The study showed patients who pre-seasonally used honey to control their birch pollen allergy experienced:

  • 60 percent reduction in allergy symptoms
  • Twice as many asymptomatic days
  • 70 fewer days with severe symptoms
  • 50 percent decrease in usage of antihistamines

One extra factor put to the test was the type of honey used to treat symptoms: regular honey or birch pollen honey. The study found people taking birch pollen honey used less histamines than those who used regular honey.

While the results of the study shouldn’t be taken as 100 percent reliable for everyone experiencing seasonal allergies, it does indicate that local birch pollen honey could be used as a remedy for some seasonal allergies.

Make sure you visit your favorite grocery store or farmer's’ market to get local honey and fortify your body before allergy season. It always pays to plan ahead!

  • Cayenne pepper

Peppers: good for the soul and good for the sinuses!

Cayenne pepper has the ability to unclog a stuffy nose because of the spice from the pepper, capsaicin. An active compound in cayenne peppers, it helps to thin the mucus and stimulate the sinuses, aiding in air circulation. So consumption of foods containing cayenne peppers can help decrease congestion.

All of this may seem pretty straight-forward. Most people know eating spicy food makes your nose run, but before you go out and buy ghost peppers to clear out your sinuses, keep in mind cayenne pepper has another benefit you won’t find in other peppers: Cayenne pepper is full of beta carotene and antioxidants, which also aid in breaking up and moving congested mucus.

When it comes to helping relieve your allergy symptoms, always remember it isn’t the heat level that matters most.

So whether you’re getting your cayenne in a capsule or on your favorite fish tacos, make sure to keep it on hand this time of the year.

  • Herbal tea

A sore, scratchy throat affected by seasonal allergies can be soothed by a serving of your favorite tea, but what you might not know is that certain spices and herbs popularly found in tea may actually serve as a remedy for your allergy symptoms.

For example, a substance found in the herb rosemary has shown potential to combat the inflammation symptoms of hay fever. Or for those who prefer a sweeter taste, cinnamon extracts have actually been documented to be effective against nasal symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. These spices and herbs can be brewed into tea; providing both the comfort and care your body needs when fending off sickness.

A few of these may seem unconventional, but all of these foods have natural components needed to fight off your allergies and inflammation.

Top Ten Cities For Spring Allergies

CareNow can help with spring allergies

You’ve probably heard about the two most common pollen producers: cedar and ragweed. Both create massive amounts of pollen around these cities, especially the mid-west and southern regions. 

In general, pollen is a yellowish powder that is produced by flowers. It can be found on all types of objects you encounter during your daily routine. The most common ways for it to be transported are through wind, flying insects and pets’ hair. Being exposed to too much pollen can send your sinuses spiraling and make you feel sick.

Spring Cleaning Checklist

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  • Absorb Dust

When you think of the term “dusting” does an image of a feather duster creating a cloud come to your mind? You should definitely avoid this when dusting your house in the spring.

Sending a big cloud of dust into the air will make your sinuses have a fit. Not only will you start to sneeze and tear up, you’ll move dust particles to different areas of the house.

You can avoid all of this by using a wet rag to absorb the dust. The particles will stick to the rag instead of being transferred throughout your home.

  • Extensively Vacuum

Your family constantly enters and exits the home. Each time you walk into the house, small allergens come in contact with your carpets and rugs. (If you have a pet that is allowed to move in and out of the house freely, you are at a higher risk of indoor allergies).

Regular vacuuming is a must for any homeowner. If it’s been awhile since you extensively cleaned your carpets, we recommend using a steam cleaner or having a carpet cleaning service stop by this spring. Doing this makes your carpets look new and smell fresh!

  • Change Air Filters

Your air conditioning system is designed to do a couple of crucial things. Yes, it keeps you cool when it gets warm, but it’s also supposed to make the air in your home clean.

When was the last time you changed the air filters in your home? Ensure your family breathes fresh, allergen-free air indoors this spring. Switch out your system’s air filters.

  • Clean The Places You Can’t See

Dust accumulates in all types of places. Especially parts of your house you can’t see! Be thorough while dusting this spring. Don’t forget to clean the following five key spots:

  1. The top of fan blades.
  2. Under furniture.
  3. The backs of blinds in your home.
  4. Chandeliers in hallways.
  5. Behind the TV and computer.
  • Keep Windows Closed

It may feel perfect outside, but the pollen and other allergens in the air don’t belong in your home. Keep the windows closed.

Standing up to Spring Allergies

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The easiest way to lessen the effects of pollen is to simply avoid it. Thoroughly cleaning your home not only makes it look nice and presentable for guests, it can help prevent seasonal allergies. 

We hope this information left you well-prepared and educated for tackling your seasonal allergies! If your friends are sniffling and sneezing this allergy season, be sure to share this article with them.

If spring allergies have you feeling down, come see us! Check in to your local CareNow® online and avoid the waiting room.

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With these tips in mind, you’ll be better able to deal with your spring allergies this season. To learn more about dealing with allergy symptoms, you can visit a CareNow® provider.

Disclaimer: Patients' health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.