Column: Relief from Spring Allergies
The sun is shining, snow is melting and the birds are singing again. This is one of my favourite times of the year, however for a lot of patients the melting snow and pollen means a season of sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose.
The common term for seasonal allergies is ‘hayfever’ and the medical term is ‘seasonal allergic rhinitis’. Seasonal allergies are extremely common, affecting 10-30 percent of children in industrialized countries1.
Seasonal allergies are also a huge economic burden, accounting for1:
· 2.5% of all clinician visits
· 2 million lost school days per year
· 6 million lost work days per year
· 28 million restricted work days per year
· Double the prescriptions than patients without seasonal allergies
· $2.4 billion USD spent on prescriptions and over the counter medications
How do I know if I have seasonal allergies?
If you aren’t sure if you have seasonal allergies, the key signs and symptoms (that happen in spring/summer) are:
· Runny nose
· Itchy eyes
· Itchy nose
· Itchy palate (the top of the inside of your mouth)
· Postnasal drip (the feeling of fluid running down the back of your throat which makes you want to cough or clear your throat)
· Other common symptoms: cough, fatigue, irritability
Some risk factors for having allergic rhinitis include1:
· Family history of seasonal allergies, eczema, or asthma
· Birth during pollen season
· Early use of antibiotics
· Exposure to indoor allergens such as dust mites
My favourite remedy for seasonal allergies
My favourite remedy for allergy season is Quercetin.
Quercetin is a type of bioflavonoid found in many foods, especially apples and onions (just increasing your consumption of these two foods at this time can decrease your seasonal allergy symptoms!). Flavonoids are what give plants and flowers their colour, but they are also extremely important for good health.
Quercetin is consistently the most active flavonoid in experimental studies2 and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, anti-viral, and vessel strengthening properties2. For seasonal allergies, it works by stabilizing and inhibiting mast cells and inhibiting the release of histamine3. Mast cells are cells in our body that are responsible for releasing histamine when we are exposed to an allergen or inflammation. Histamine is a compound that is responsible for the symptoms you experience such as itchy eyes and a runny nose. Quercetin blocks mast cells from releasing histamine and blocks histamine itself to stop the symptoms that are caused by histamine.
In addition to treating seasonal allergies, Quercetin also decreases inflammation and is important as a type of antioxidant because it keeps vitamin C in your body for longer2. There is some research showing that Quercetin has anti-viral activity and can even inhibit cancer tumor growth2.
You can get Quercetin in supplement form (I prefer the high potency forms that are at least 750 mg per capsule) or just increase your apples and onions!
1. deShazo, R. & Kemp, S. (2019). Allergic rhinitis: Clinical manifestations, epidemiology, and diagnosis. UpToDate. Retrieved March 31, 2019, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/allergic-rhinitis-clinical-manifestations-epidemiology-and-diagnosis?search=allergic%20rhinitis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2
2. Pizzorno, J & Murray M. The Textbook of Natural Medicine. Elselvier ltd, 2006.
3. Bielory, L. (2019). Complementary and alternative therapies for allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis. UpToDate. Retrieved March 31, 2019, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/complementary-and-alternative-therapies-for-allergic-rhinitis-and-conjunctivitis?search=quercetin&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~12&usage_type=default&display_rank=1