Spring is finally here.
And with it comes the sniffles for over 35 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies.
Personally, it’s the pollen that gets my eyes itching and nose running. For others it may be the flowers, grass, trees and plants, or even dust and dust mites inside the house, along with mold, or pet dander as spring stirs things up. Regardless of what causes allergies, it certainly affects a bunch of us.
Allergies come from a misplaced and often exaggerated response by our immune system. Instead of ignoring common substances in the environment—call them allergens—immune cells view them as threats and try to fight them off by creating an inflammatory response. This results in a flood of histamine and other inflammatory compounds that produce the watery eyes, sneezing, runny or itchy nose and a scratchy throat. Every time a person encounters a reactive substance, they will have some kind of an allergic response.
The typical conventional treatments for allergies include antihistamines, decongestants and steroids, many of which are available over the counter and act by blocking the effect of histamine on the body or counteracting the inflammatory response. Even though these conventional therapies are generally effective, they often act to suppress or block the allergic reaction and can cause rebound symptoms that are worse when stopping the drug. They can also cause side effects that aren’t particularly pleasant, from rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure, anxiety and sleeplessness to mental fog and over-sedation. Steroids can lead to a whole host of issues if given chronically: suppression of immunity, weight gain, stomach problems, mood disturbances, insomnia, even changes in blood pressure and blood sugar.