Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever

Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever: Overview

Allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever) is the most common form of allergy.

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Causes and Development

Your body's immune system is overreacting to irritants in the environment, such as the following:

  • Pollens, grasses, or ragweed (in certain seasons and areas)
  • Dust and household mites
  • Changes in temperature or humidity
  • Spicy foods
  • Smoking or prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms often vary with the seasons and include:

  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose, eyes, and throat
  • "Sinus" symptoms – headache, feeling of pressure behind the eye, pain above the cheekbones and on the lower forehead, aching teeth
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Diarrhea or frequent urination.

Diagnosis and Tests

Your health care provider will examine your nose and nasal secretions.  You may be referred to an allergist, a physician who can pinpoint what you are allergic to by performing skin or blood tests.

Treatment and Prevention

Depending on the cause of your allergies, you may need to do any or all of the following:

  • Cover pillows and mattresses with plastic covers
  • Use synthetic materials (acrylic) instead of animal products (wool)
  • Minimize dust-collecting household items (e.g. carpets)
  • Use air purifiers or dust filters
  • Desensitization therapy – repeated injections of gradually increasing amounts of the identified allergen.

Allergic rhinitis may be successfully treated with alternative therapies, beginning with dietary changes.  Use the tincture and homeopathic remedies for acute allergic reactions.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever:

Lab Values - Cells

Symptoms - Allergy

Counter-indicators

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular

(Occasional/frequent) itchy eyes

Itching is the hallmark of allergic conjunctivitis, as well as other forms of allergic eye disease.  The itching may be mild to severe.  In general, a red eye in the absence of itching is not caused by ocular allergy.

Symptoms - Head - Nose

Conditions that suggest Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever:

Allergy

Allergic Conjunctivitis

The most common cause of allergic conjunctivitis is hay fever.

Circulation

Dental

Bruxism (Clenching/Grinding Teeth)

Allergy may play a role in bruxism.  It is reported that bruxism is more frequent in those experiencing periods of allergic rhinitis or asthma.

Metabolic

Meniere's Disease

Several studies have found a strong connection between inhalant allergies and Meniere's Disease.

Symptoms - Allergy

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Risk factors for Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever:

Allergy

Allergy to Foods (Hidden)

The ear, nose, and throat are common target organs for food allergens.  Congestion or inflammation of the nose (rhinitis) may be due to airborne irritants and allergens, but food allergy may be an undiagnosed cause of this common problem.

Family History

Hormones

Symptoms - Environment

Mild/significant/severe diesel exhaust exposure

Diesel exhaust fumes and ozone can enhance the effects of inhaled allergens or have an effect on immune function.

Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever suggests the following may be present:

Allergy

Recommendations for Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever:

Amino Acid / Protein

Cysteine / N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)

N-acetylcysteine is recommended at 200mg three times per day.

Botanical

Echinacea (Coneflower)

A tincture of equal parts of coneflower (Echinacea), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), cleavers (Gallium asparine), eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis), ginger root (Zingiber officinalis), and elderberry (Sambucus nigra) will strengthen your immune system, increase circulation, and help your respiratory system work better.  Take 30 drops two or three times per day.

Stinging Nettle

Nettles are traditionally used for hay fever and may be drunk as an infusion, 2 cups a day.

Rose Hip

Rose hips can be used as an infusion or solid extract.

Picrorhiza

[Dorsch W, Stuppner H, Wagner H, et al.  Antiasthmatic effects of Picrorhiza kurroa: Androsin prevents allergen- and PAF-induced bronchial obstruction in guinea pigs.  Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol 1991;95: pp.128-33]

Diet

Increased Fruit/Vegetable Consumption

Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, plenty of water and fresh juices are all recommended.

Animal/Saturated Fats Avoidance

Do not eat foods that trigger your allergies: eat fewer foods and additives that are likely to cause inflammation and allergic reactions, such as saturated fats (meats and dairy products), refined foods, eggs, citrus, bananas, chocolate, peanuts, shellfish, food coloring, preservatives, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and sugar.

Therapeutic Fasting

Fasting lowers the allergic reactions producing hay fever.

Plant-Based Nutrition

Many of the diet and lifestyle changes recommended against allergies are a natural consequence of adhering to a more animal-free lifestyle: avoiding saturated fats (meats and dairy products), eggs, shellfish; consuming fresh fruits and vegetables (be careful of citrus in particular though), whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fresh juices; using synthetic materials such as acrylic instead of animal products such as wool.

Drug

Conventional Drug Use

Prescription Drugs
Nonsedating antihistamines may cause life-threatening irregular heartbeat and should not be taken with other drugs or if you have other liver or heart problems.  Oral decongestants may have systemic side-effects.  Nasal corticosteroid sprays are effective if used properly; improvement takes 1 to 2 weeks.  Systemic steroids are prescribed only for severe allergic rhinitis; generally prescribed for short amounts of time because of their many side-effects.

Over-the-Counter
Antihistamines may cause drowsiness.  Alpha-adrenergic topical sprays reduce congestion but there is a rebound effect if used for more than a few days.  Cromolyn sodium is the only preventative drug choice; works as well as antihistamines but does not cause drowsiness; take continuously or it will not work effectively; it is virtually without side-effects.

NOTE: Extended use of antihistamines or nasal sprays can make your allergic rhinitis worse.

Environmental

Habits

Homeopathy

Homeopathic Remedies

Dosage is usually 12X to 30C every one to four hours until your symptoms get better.  Some of the most common remedies used for allergic rhinitis are:-

  • Allium cepa for a lot of irritating nasal discharge and tearing eyes
  • Euphrasia for bland nasal discharge, with stinging, irritating tears
  • Sabadilla for sneezing with watery discharge from nose and eyes
  • Wyethia for an itchy nose, throat, and soft palate.

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

Test for Manganese Levels

Low blood manganese levels may accentuate allergies.

Mineral

MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane)

Symptoms of pollen allergy may be reduced with MSM supplements.  Dr. Stanley Jacobs, author of The Miracle of MSM admits that he does not understand why MSM would help relieve allergies, but he suspects that MSM blocks cell receptor sites for histamine, which triggers allergic symptoms.  It is best taken in the evening, a couple of grams per day, perhaps more when the pollen count is high.

Zinc

Zinc is recommended at 20 to 30mg per day.

Oriental Medicine

Acupuncture

Treatment with acupuncture can help promote both immune system function and drainage of lymphatic fluid.

Oxygen / Oxidative Therapies

Physical Medicine

Topical Applications

A saltwater nasal rinse will flush out pollen and other irritants, shrink your sinus membranes and increases drainage.  Use a nasal rinse made with water and salt to taste like tears.  Rinse each nostril and, with your head over a sink, hold your head sideways and let the water run from your upper nostril to your lower nostril.  Keep your nostrils lower than your throat to prevent the salt water from draining into the back of your throat.

Massage

Therapeutic massage can assist drainage of lymphatic fluid.

Vitamins

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Pantothenic acid supplementation may reduce allergic reactions, especially allergic rhinitis.  Clinical observation: The majority of over 100 patients with allergic rhinitis who took 250mg of pantothenic acid twice daily had almost instant relief.  [Martin W.  On treating allergic disorders.  Townsend Letter for Doctors Aug/Sept 1991: pp.670-1]

Clinical observation: A physician with allergies took 100mg at bedtime and found that his nasal stuffiness cleared in less than 15 minutes and that he stopped awakening at 4 or 5 AM with cough and mucous secretion.  He subsequently found that many of his patients also noted significant relief of nasal congestion from supplementation.  [Crook WG.  Ann Allergy 49: pp.45-46, 1987]

Clinical observation: Observations made in our laboratory indicated that pantothenic acid at about 500mg daily could be used to combat allergy.  Subsequently a pharmaceutical house found that, while it was somewhat effective, it was not superior to certain available antihistaminics.  [Williams RJ.  The expanding horizon in nutrition.  Texas Rep Biol Med 19[2]: pp.245- 58, 1961]

Note: Pantothenic acid is quite effective in treating nasal congestion caused by allergy.  However, if the dosage is too high, it can cause nasal dryness and pruritus.  [Roger Williams, U.  of Texas at Austin – personal communication to Wayne Martin, quoted in Martin W.  Pantothenic acid for allergies.  Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients June, 1997: p.108]

Szorady conducted allergy skin tests on 24 children injecting them with histamine.  Pantothenic acid reduced the intensity of skin reaction by 20-50% in all children.  [Marz, p.209, 1997]

Bioflavonoids

Plants high in bioflavonoids such as quercetin and curcuma (rose hips, bilberry) are especially useful because they reduce your body's production of histamines or leukotrienes (substances that cause allergy symptoms) and strengthen connective tissue.

Quercetin appears to stabilize the membranes of the mast cells that release histamine.  Since quercetin's action is preventive, it is best taken daily a week or two before pollen season and continued throughout.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

One older study reported that L-tyrosine (200mg), vitamin B6 (2.5mg) and niacinamide (10mg) when given in combination for the treatment of hay fever, hives, allergic headaches and poison oak dermatitis produced significant symptomatic relief when 1-3 tablets were taken four times/day in milder cases and up to 6 tablets 4-6 times/day in more severe cases.  In some cases characterized by more chronic disorders, such as chronic sinusitis, a worsening of symptoms often occurred during the first few days of treatment.  This study found that treatment with each the nutrients individually, or with any two in combination, was ineffective.  (Widmann RR, Keye JD Epinephrine precursors an control of allergy.  Northwest Med 1952:51:588-590.)

Vitamin A

The following vitamins can help your symptoms: vitamin A (10,000 to 15,000 IU per day); vitamin B6 (50 to 100mg per day); vitamin B5 (50 to 75mg per day); vitamin C (1,000mg three to four times per day); vitamin E (400 IU per day).

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