Medical care– seek medical care for any of the below symptoms particularly if it is of acute and problematic nature. Allergy symptoms have many similarities to other medical conditions.Before attempting any self treatment or holistic methods below please discuss your or your children’s symptoms with your Physician for a consult and physical exam.Things are not always what they seem and a trained physician is the best place to start when diagnosing and managing allergies.
Description of allergies
General explanation for allergies is your body’s immune overreaction to things in the environment and your diet.
Common allergic symptoms include runny nose, sneezing watery itchy irritated eyes, nasal congestion,sinus problems, skin rashes, hives and itchy skin rashes. Severe reactions could include swelling in the throat, eyes, lips, coughing with trouble breathing.
( For any symptoms call your Medical doctor, and any doubt as to the severity of your or your child’s symptoms go to the emergency room or call 911)
An example of a mild allergic reaction is when you are sensitive to someone’s perfume and start to sneeze, develop a runny nose and itchy eyes.
The sources of these irritants are many and can be from food which can also cause stomach pain, gas,bloating and diarrhea; or allergens that range from pets to the environment which tends to cause runny nose, coughing, and respiratory issues. . Allergic and commonly called atopic symptoms range from merely a little sneezing to sensitive eczema skin and asthma with wheezing.Many allergies run in families .
- Elimination of the sources of your allergy in the home, outdoors, diet , and personal care products
- Medical treatment from over the counter to emergency medical care always consult your physician first
- Foods, herbs, teas, that help with allergic symptoms
- Supplements that may improve allergy symptoms
- Lifestyle change- exercise, meditation , stress reduction can moderate some of the allergy triggers
Best method in managing allergic symptoms is to avoid the causes in the first place. Below are things to consider eliminating to lower your exposure to allergens that cause your allergic reactions.
Environmental and Household allergy management and control
Pets bring us unconditional love and joy but allergies to these pets can be problematic . Your friendly family pet can help enhance a child’s immune system by exposing them to healthy bacteria and at the same time help the whole family de-stress, but many people are allergic to dogs and more so cats,( there is really no such thing as a non allergic dog, only some dogs shed less.) All dogs potentially cause allergies in the house and particularly in the child’s room. Also something to consider even if you and your children are not allergic to your dog or cat is that your pet is the perfect vector for bringing all sorts of outdoor irritants and allergens into the house including pollen, ragweed, grass, dirt, mold etc.
Mattress- buy a hypoallergenic mattress ,place a plastic cover on mattress, no curtains,no frilly blankets. No carpet. No stuffed animals or toys in the room, keep them away from contact in glass or storage containers. Keep pets out of the babies room until you know the child is not allergic to this pet. Take your shoes off when you come into the house. Any clothing with lotions , plant residue or spray remove and leave in the washroom, by the front door or the bathroom.
Dust and mite collectors- try to eliminate clutter, curtains, carpet , stuffed toys, mattresses, and furniture that collects dust,
Cleaning products– detergents, carpet cleaners, floor products including bleach, ammonia, and anything with a scent are all irritants.
Exterminator and bug spray – have non toxic brands. Stay out of the house for at least 3 hours after you spray for insects or the exterminator does. Keep your child out of the room where you spray for at least an hour when you do it yourself.
Indoor plants– pay attention to any indoor plants that may have mold,bugs, seed, flowers or pollen.
Air conditioning – use an electrostatic filter to lower the dust and allergens in the air, clean vents with non toxic chemicals. Have the whole unit checked for mold and germs in the motor, pipes and fans. Set up an ultraviolet light to keep the filter clean and free of mold.
Mold is a particularly problematic in humid climates such as South Florida. It can get in the air conditioning vents, walls, floorboards, and any closet, bathroom, or moist area inside the house or outside. Be vigilant to keep the house mold free it can be one of the most irritating and toxic sources of allergies and respiratory problems.
including your yard and the neighborhood –
Be aware of the allergy irritation potential of the flowers, plants, trees with pollen surrounding your house or apartment.
Insects are also a common source of allergic reaction ranging from simple itchy mosquito bites to severe redness swelling and respiratory issues with bee,wasp,and red ants. If you find you or your child has a severe reaction to one of these insects you should see an allergist and make sure you have diphenhydramine and an injectable with you whenever you are outdoors or in school.
Seasonal allergies particularly mold during rainy season,pollen during the windy season, and decaying leaves on the ground during fall are things to consider.
Chemicals sprayed on the grass in your yard, the neighborhood or the park travel back in the house on your shoes with allergens from outside are additionally something to be aware of.
Pools and lakes can be a source of problems- pool chlorine tends to bother many children. Lakes can have algae and other plants that are irritants.
Hygiene – is a new area of discussion. We of course want to be clean but not too clean. Appropriate hygiene is the catchphrase- try to avoid putting allergens on your body and face by touching your face and nose with contaminated hands from touching plants, dust ,and pollen by washing regularly after coming in from the outdoors or when you know you have a substance on your hands. This can initiate an allergic reaction without even realizing you have done it yourself.
But there is much discussion regarding being too sterile with wipes, hand sanitizer, constant washing and cleaning. This leads to eliminating good bacteria from the skin as well as causing children to be more susceptible to allergens from food and the environment since they were not exposed and allowed to develop a tolerance while they were young. They subsequently do not develop a proper proportional response to allergens and overreact to anything new causing worse reactions. So use wipes and hand washing when you know there is particularly dirty little hands or your child touched something obviously irritating. But it is not necessary to constantly clean them for any reason.
Personal and household supplies that you should consider eliminating or changing.
Beauty supplies-perfume,cologne, make up, shaving cream,deodorant, body lotions, soaps. Can all be irritants and should be evaluated for possible allergic reactions. Hair supplies- shampoo and conditioner, straighteners, creams, spray, gels can also cause allergies and rashes around the hairline and neck.
Additional Things you put on your skin, moisturizer, sunscreen, insect repellent are all known to be very irritating to the skin and respiratory system.
Cleaning goods including clothes detergent, household cleaners like floor cleansers, furniture polish, dust sprays .
Other possible sources for allergies in the house. Smoke , candles. Incense, fragrance .
Food elimination when trying to uncover allergies
Keep a food diary or log to try to see if their are any foods which might be responsible for allergic symptoms. Generally food allergies are manifested more internally such as stomach upset, gas, loose stools. But often they can also be part of a wider allergic profile such as congestion, coughing, eczema and atopic skin and rashes.
First monitor your most commonly ingested foods , diary is one of the most common. Then look carefully at the known allergic food group including berries, corn, nuts, tomatoes, citrus, and eggs. Then move on to evaluating you or your child’s diet for additional foods consumed and those you may need to eliminate. Next see if eliminating them makes an improvement in your symptoms. It can take up to a week or longer to notice improvement but often the difference can be seen in a few day’s.
If elimination and management particularly once you have consulted your physician or child a Pediatrician does not help then it may be time to take your child to an allergist
[ Early introduction of common healthy allergic foods such as peanuts and fruits such as berries is now recommended to prevent development of these allergens in children ]
Medical management :Always seek medical advice from your medical doctor and child’s Pediatrician before beginning any medication including over the counter meds. Even the smallest of signs of allergies can turn into big problems quickly so consult your physician for advice and a plan in the event of worsening of your symptoms.
Medications to have in your cabinet and with you when you travel if you have known allergy symptoms in the family
Benadryl or generic name diphenylhydramine, claritin, allegra, and more emergency treatment as prescribed by your physician for known serious allergies. epi-pen, and auviQ
Nasal- washes with sterile saline is often helpful in keeping your nasal passages open and clear of allergens. Cortisone sprays are now available over the counter but should be recommended by your physician prior to beginning any therapy
Non medical options to reduce allergic symptoms to try
Foods to include that have been known to help with allergies
Quercetin containing foods – quercetin is a component of foods that it is known to be anti inflammatory and antioxidant particularly for the over response of our immune system to things that cause allergies
Foods high in quercetin include red apple skin, red onions, capers used in flavoring ( try to find low salt), lovage leaves, berries including blueberries and elderberries , black plums,and red grapes.
Nettle Leaf is another anti inflammatory plant that has been commonly used to help with allergic symptoms.
Quercetin and nettle leaf supplements are also available – please check with your physician before starting as any antioxidant may interfere with other meditation
Green tea has catechins which helps reduce histamine ( the source of allergic reaction ) production by your body in response to allergens.
Ginger tea is a good anti inflammatory and helps calm allergies
Rooibos tea helps reduce the histamine response as well
Peppermint tea is known to help with the congestion and allergy symptoms
Nettle, yerba mate, and lemon balm tea can all also help with allergic symptoms.
Spices and herbs
Cinnamon in general helps with it’s anti inflammatory and blood stabilizing properties. Cassia cinnamon in particular helps moderate allergic symptoms with about a teaspoon a day being the recommended amount. Cassia cinnamon mixed with spanish needles makes a reasonable anti allergy mixture that has been researched to have benefits.
Turmeric once again helps with allergy symptoms with it’s anti inflammatory benefits
Elderberry syrup has been used for centuries to help with allergy symptoms such as congestion and runny nose.
Ginger itself is useful for allergy symptoms by lowering your reaction and helping with cough.
Black pepper also has been shown to be useful to help lower allergy and other atopic symptoms including skin issues.
Probiotics- help your intestinal flora keep your immune system functioning at peak and generally maintain the appropriate response to stimulants in food.
Stress reduction is immune building and allergy reducing
Exercise always helps calm your nerves which contribute to allergies. Blood flow enhances clearance of sinuses and thinning of the mucus
Meditation and mindfulness at the very least helps with the anxiety and frustration associated with chronic allergy sufferers. But in addition there much research regarding the nature of stress and its effect on your immune system even your overreaction to allergens in the environment and the development of allergies particularly eczema .
As with all recommendations please check with your physician before beginning any regimen .
Allergies present a particular dilemma for anyone trying to avoid medications and live healthy .
Allergic symptoms can be miserable and often worth using medications to be comfortable. But if you do your homework with the help of this guide you can reduce your dependence on some medications and use them more wisely
Warren Krantz MD
Author of “ Start Healthy, Stay Healthy”.