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Show 1166: How Can You Manage the Misery of Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies can make you miserable, but a combination of medication and common-sense measures can help you manage the symptoms.
David B. Peden, MD, MS
Harry S. Andrews Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics
Senior Associate Dean for Translational Research
Chief, Division of Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology, Department of Pediatrics
Director, Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma & Lung Biology
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How Can You Manage the Misery of Seasonal Allergies?

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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?

Should You Take Nonprescription Medicines for Seasonal Allergies?

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?

Downsides of Stopping Certain Allergy Drugs:

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.

Integrative Approaches to Seasonal Allergies:

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.

This Week’s Guests:

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. 

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Wow, thought I had heard all the benefits of low carb but this would be worth it for sure to rid myself of allergies. Will be testing this theory in 2019.

I have been managing my allergies. I began eating a spoonful of local honey years ago. I started 8 months before the next allergy season. My symptoms have been significantly reduced. It is my understanding that starting to eat the honey many months before is key to help build up immunity. Now if only I could get my son to try it.

After uncomfortable experiences with many allergy medications over the years, I was excited to discover homeopathic remedies. For me, the body responds immediately and there are no side effects. It’s a huge relief!

Good show! I was glad to hear Dr. Low Dog mention raw local honey as a remedy for allergies connected to the local pollen that the bees gather. I get a jar from a local beekeeper and take a teaspoon each day, sometimes in tea and sometimes straight. It tastes very good. It works best if I can start a couple of weeks before the pollen covers the land.

Other helpful remedies: Showering and washing my hair, not wearing outdoor shoes in the house, and cleaning nasal cilia with either saline or a solution of distilled water with a small amount of xylitol (which has anti-bacterial properties).

Neilmed sinus rinse. It shoots salt water up your nose, flushes out the pollen. Cheap and effective. Gross, yes. But no prescription or drugs are needed.

I listen every week. I usually Love the program but stopped listening to your show about seasonable allergies after a half hour because your guest, while apparently knowledgeable, failed to speak using plain enough terms that I could follow what he was saying. Further, I was disappointed that natural remedies were not discussed.

Too bad you didn’t listen all the way through, Nicole. We discussed natural remedies at the end.

I found going very low carbohydrate caused my tree pollen symptoms to disappear. For me 20 grams a day is low.

Have you ever heard of eating local honey for a few weeks ahead of allergy season to help combat allergies?

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