Gerald Quigley on Hayfever

Pharmacist & Master Herbalist, Gerald Quigley writes:

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is characterised by sneezing, running nose, swelling of the sinus mucosa, itching of the eyes and lots of tears. Hay fever is the common term for allergic rhinitis due to the seasonal spread of pollens in the air, but the disease is not necessarily seasonal and may result from exposure to antigens other than pollen.

Common antigens that precipitate symptoms in susceptible individuals are house dust, animal hair, broken insect parts, fungus spores, mould feathers, powders, insecticides and many grass pollens. Approximately 5 to 15% of individuals are susceptible or have a capacity to react to inhalant allergens. These individuals are more prone to viral infections as well as having a higher risk of contracting asthma.

Sinusitis may also develop in these individuals due to bacterial infection that becomes associated with impaired drainage of the nasal mucosa. Symptoms of this condition are local pain and tenderness of the overlaying facial skin, headache and possibly fever. Treatment involves avoidance or reduced exposure to the offending antigen, reducing the immune or inflammatory response, desensitization by stimulating other classes of immunoglobulin and improving immunity.

Nutritional treatment includes:

  • Eliminate the offending antigen from your environment. If dander from cats or dogs is responsible, avoid contact with these animals. If nasal polyps are present, check for salicylate and aspirin sensitivity.
  • Increase consumption of fish oils.
  • Use garlic and horseradish in cooking.
  • Introduce propolis into the diet. This may decrease sensitization to pollens by orally stimulating the blocking antibodies.
  • Drink two cups of fenugreek herb tea each day.
  • Ginger extract may have some benefit as it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Test for milk sensitivity.
  • If you are sensitive to ragweed, eliminate watermelon, canteloupe, honey melon, zucchini, cucumber and bananas from the diet. All these foods share a common allergen to ragweed.
  • Avoid exposure to diesel fumes as it sensitizes the nose to pollens. Oxides of nitrogen can destroy the cilia in the throat and hence encourage the accumulation of mucous.
  • Remove carpet and feather bedding to improve symptoms caused by dust mites. To kill the mites, wash all clothing in hot water above 58 degrees C.
  • Air filtering vacuum cleaners should be used to clean the house.

The weather patterns give meaningful clues as to how bad the symptoms of hay fever may affect most people. Days of warm stable weather followed by a windy, stormy, wet cooler change usually brings on acute symptoms a few days before the change actually arrives. Regular daily dosing of a tablet form of natural antihistamines like fenugreek, odorless garlic, vitamin C, marshmallow and horseradish seem to establish a barrier to the release of the mediators of the symptoms of hay fever. Increasing the dose often prevents the problems in the few days prior to the cooler change. This combination is an ideal way to switch from regular doses of the non-sedating antihistamines, to an occasional dose of the antihistamine, usually needed because the higher dose of the preventatives was not started early enough. Careful scrutiny of the weather patterns, along with the trends in the pollen count as heard on radio, will often give the necessary clues as to the developing risks of hay fever problems. Remember that allergens are inhaled, so care of the delicate mucosal surfaces inside our nose is fundamental. Regular irrigation with isotonic saline that doesn’t contain a preservative is the simplest option.

Antihistamines are divided into two groups – older, sedating drugs and newer, less sedating drugs. Individual response to specific antihistamines varies widely; it may be necessary to try a number of agents to see which is best tolerated and most effective. Most antihistamines are for short term treatment.

Your Pharmacist will help with the most appropriate way of helping you control your hay fever.

So, relax and take control. Use the natural therapies to help prevent the problems and when needed, use one of the less sedating antihistamines to relieve any breakthrough symptoms.