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Help Minimize Allergies this Spring

Don’t let itchy eyes and a runny (or stuffed up) nose dominate your days this spring. Instead, try these natural tactics that can help keep allergies at bay. Start now to get ahead of the springtime allergy onslaught.

If sneezing and itchy eyes are affecting your day-to-day routine during specific times of the year, you may have seasonal allergies. The following natural approaches may have beneficial effects on your symptoms - give them a try:

  1. Take freeze-dried stinging nettles and butterbur. Both herbs may perform as well as antihistamines, without the drowsiness.
  2. Eliminate dairy and any products that contain the protein casein (to avoid potential immune-system irritation).
  3. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids - they help combat inflammation caused by allergic reactions. Wild Alaskan salmon or high-quality fish oil supplements are good choices. The body can convert the fats in freshly ground flaxseeds to omega-3s, but the process is inefficient – fish oil is a far better source.
  4. Eat foods rich in quercetin. This bioflavonoid can help prevent the release of histamine. Citrus fruits, garlic, parsley, apples, broccoli and tea all contain quercetin.
  5. Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits, such as berries and cherries, to help modify the body's inflammatory response.
  6. Try nasal douching with a warm saline solution by using a Neti pot.
  7. Drink plenty of water to keep nasal passages hydrated and to help flush out your system.
  8. Consider acupuncture. Respiratory conditions, including sinusitis and asthma, can be relieved with acupuncture.

Can You Be Allergic to Antibiotics in Food?

Here's another good reason to consider choosing organic fruits and vegetables: the case of a 10-year-old girl who had an anaphylactic reaction to a slice of blueberry pie. Her clinical course has alerted allergists to the possibility that some people can have a severe allergic response to antibiotic residues in food. The young patient had a history of asthma and seasonal allergies as well as anaphylaxis to penicillin and cow's milk, but she had no known allergy to the ingredients in the pie. After ruling out other possibilities, doctors concluded that her reaction was due to a blueberry in the pie contaminated with streptomycin, an antibiotic used in agriculture as a pesticide in fruit to combat the growth of bacteria, fungi and algae and in medicine as a treatment for tuberculosis. While allergic reactions like this one are considered rare, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology noted that allergists and emergency room personnel should be aware of the possibility that antibiotic residues can trigger allergic reactions.

Sidestepping Allergic Reactions to Tree Nuts

If you’re allergic to tree nuts (cashews, walnuts, almonds and others), the best way to prevent a reaction is to avoid eating them. But now researchers are exploring a way to head off the reactions to nuts by changing the shape of their proteins. This could make the nuts allergy-proof – the modified protein wouldn’t be recognized by immunoglobulin E (IgE), antibodies that initiate reactions by latching on to nut (and peanut) proteins. The research was presented on August 11, 2014 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society by investigators from the Agricultural Research Service branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Clinical trials to test immunotherapy are underway, but we’re approaching it from an agricultural perspective rather than medical. Can we change the food, instead of treating the person, so we can eliminate or reduce severe reactions?” said researcher Chris Mattison, Ph.D. As things now stand, allergic responses to nuts can range from mild itching in the mouth or skin to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Making Cashews Safer for Those with Allergies”, American Chemical Society news release,, accessed August 22, 2014

Strange But True: Cell Phone Allergy

Unexplainable itchy rash on your face? A recent investigation indicates the possibility that you – and your kids – may be allergic to the metal in your cell phones. A literature overview published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, reports that many cell phones release low levels of metals. Mobile phone users have potential exposures to nickel and chromium, both of which can cause allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), which typically presents as red, itchy rash in adults and children. The review states that nickel sensitization is common in kids and that the rash can appear on the face, neck, hands, breast, or anterior thighs, which the investigators note are often exposed to cell phones. Nickel release from mobile phones appears to be common and has been reported in both cheap and expensive mobile phones, the reviewers reported. However, they also commented that nickel can be released from a wide variety of items we use every day including jewelry, belt buckles, zippers, buttons, snaps, glasses, coins, and keys. In addition to mobile phones, nickel sensitization – and ACD - can come from the metals in laptop computers, video game controllers, and other technology accessories, according to the reviewers.

Jacob Thyssen et al, “Mobile Phone Dermatitis in Children and Adults: A Review of the Literature,” Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, doi: 10.1089/ped.2013.0308.

What’s Your Take On The Microbiome – Allergy Connection? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract and how it may be connected with allergies: Do the Bugs in Your Belly Cause Allergies? Check out the article and let us know your opinion on the connection between the microbiome and allergies.

What Works Best for Your Allergies? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed using acupuncture as a form of relief for allergies: Acupuncture for Allergies? Check out the article and let us know what you use or do for relieving allergies.

What’s Your Take on the Hygiene Hypothesis? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the hygiene hypothesis and if constantly washing your hands is really healthy: What is the Hygiene Hypothesis? Check out the article and let us know what you think about the hygiene hypothesis.