Magnifying the immune response

Seasonal allergies plague sufferers with aggravating symptoms, which can reduce productivity, incur expenses, and have a negative impact on health-related quality of life. Having seasonal allergies also increases the risk of developing related conditions, such as asthma, chronic sinusitis, and nasal polyps. Those with seasonal allergies may wonder, why me?

Staying immune

The immune system is overworked and underpaid. It’s constantly responsible for scanning the body for precancerous cells, sensing and fighting infection, and regulating inflammation. The immune system must also maintain tolerance to the body’s own cells and tissues, as well as to antigens from food and the environment.

Immune tolerance is the prevention of an immune response against a certain antigen. This is important for maintaining overall balance in the body and preventing autoimmune and allergic reactions. But when it comes to seasonal allergies, tolerance to a normally harmless environmental antigen, such as grass or birch pollen, is lost.

What’s in a name?

Also known as hay fever, allergic rhinitis symptoms include nasal congestion, runny nose, frequent sneezing, and itchy nose and eyes. Allergic rhinitis may result from both seasonal and perennial allergies.

Seasonal allergens are airborne particles from the environment that, in those who are hypersensitive, trigger allergic rhinitis upon inhalation. Symptoms wax and wane with the season. Common seasonal allergens include pollen from grass, trees (including birch), ragweed, and mold.

Perennial allergens are unrelated to the season and may cause allergic rhinitis in hypersensitive individuals all year long. Common perennial allergen sources include pet dander, house dust mites, and cockroaches.

Treatment options

If over-the-counter allergy medications just aren’t cutting it, consider asking for help. Allergists may offer skin prick testing and other forms of assessment. Treatment may include an intranasal, oral, or ocular antihistamine or corticosteroid, or a combination of both.

Allergen immunotherapy (“allergy shots”) may be indicated for patients with persistent symptoms. This involves administering a small amount of allergen into the skin or under the tongue to stimulate an allergic response, with the goal of building tolerance over time.

Acupuncturists and naturopaths can also provide individualized treatments for seasonal allergy sufferers.

Lifestyle strategies

  • Wear a hat, glasses, and nasal filters when outdoors.
  • Shower upon return from work or a walk.
  • Irrigate nasal passageways via neti pot with distilled water and salt.
  • Keep windows closed.
  • Wash curtains, carpets, and bedding regularly.
  • Mop floors regularly.
  • Use HEPA air filters.
  • Eradicate mold.

Supplements for seasonal allergies

The following supplements may reduce symptom severity:

  • quercetin
  • green tea
  • propolis
  • bee pollen
  • probiotics
  • vitamin c

Remember, always check with your health care practitioner before taking a new supplement.

By Dr. Cassie Irwin, ND