New Castle News

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April 18, 2013

Lori Brothers: Some natural remedies for allergy sufferers

NEW CASTLE — Get your tissues, handkerchiefs, nasal sprays and antihistamines ready.

Statistics show that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have either allergy or asthma symptoms. The common irritants include plant and tree pollens (including ragweed pollen), grasses, molds, cat dander and food.

The common name for seasonal allergies from pollen is “hay fever.” An estimated 6.7 million people reported having hay fever in the past 12 months. That’s 9 percent of the population.

Allergies are ranked fifth among other leading chronic diseases in the U.S., causing an estimated annual cost of $7.9 billion to the health care system and businesses, says WebMD. Much of the impact to businesses is due to the 4 million workdays lost each year due to hay fever.

The seasonal allergy season ranges from early spring to late November. Research shows there are peak times of the year when allergies season impacts the health of this affected population, including ragweed season, which has increased four additional weeks due to global warming over the last 10 to 15 years. Four more weeks of misery — yikes!

Research also shows that a child is 33 percent more likely to develop allergies if one parent is allergic. This increases to 70 percent if both parents have allergies.

The most common treatment for allergies is antihistamines, which block symptoms but not the underlying cause. There also are natural remedies that can make a difference. I love eating limes or lime juice, which is supposed to flush toxins out of your system. Also, purchasing local honey, which I do, is good because it contains pollen from grasses, trees and flowers in the area and helps to build immunity to these pollens.

If you are highly allergic, it is important to note that you should not eat more than 1⁄4 teaspoon of honey per day so that you don’t create a reaction in your system.

Another practice I rely on is rinsing the sinuses with salt water. This comes in a saline spray which can be purchased over-the-counter in drug stores. Or, you may want to try using a Neti Pot, which is a tea cup-sized container with a spout to pour salt water through the sinuses to rinse out pollens from nasal passages and reduce mucous.

Besides using antihistamines, a variety of herbs can also be helpful in treating seasonal allergies. Stinging nettle and echinacea treat symptoms and boost the immune system. Also, include cayenne pepper, fenugreek and hot ginger as spices in your meals to open your nasal passages — or try horseradish, one of my favorites.

In terms of hospital visits, food allergies are more acute and send people to the ER more often with an estimated 30,000 visits per year in the U.S. But the real culprit that sends adults and children to the ER, and land hospitalizations is the group with allergy-induced asthma.

The number of people with asthma continues to grow. One in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8 percent of the U.S. population) had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14 (about 20 million, or 7 percent) in 2001, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

This agency also reports that in 2008 less than half of people with asthma reported being taught how to avoid triggers. Almost half (48 percent) of adults who were taught how to avoid triggers did not follow most of this advice.

“Learning your triggers and taking steps to avoid them along with speaking to your physician about adequate symptom management will help to prevent further seasonal outbreaks,” advised Michelle Lum, respiratory care director at Jameson Hospital.

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