Hay Fever

(pollen allergies

information on diet, nutrition, self-help & research

Symptoms   Causes   Pollen   Mold   Nutritional discussion

Hay fever is an allergic condition triggered by inhaled substances, frequently pollens. There are proactive steps one can take naturally to help relieve symptoms associated with hay fever.

Self Help

Learn about therapy with local honey for pollen allergies.

Some of the drugs that are used to fight hay fever may be harmful to your eyes.

Herbs

  • Thymus extract: The oral administration of a thymus extract known as Thymomodulin® has been shown in preliminary and double-blind clinical studies to improve the symptoms and course of hay fever and allergic rhinitis. Presumably, this clinical improvement results from restoring proper control over immune function.
  • Tylophora (Tylophora indica, T. asthmatica): 200-400 mg of the dried herb daily or 1-2 ml of the tincture per day for a maximum of 14 days.
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica) leaf: 450 mg capsules or tablets of freeze-dried leaf two to three times per day, or a 2-4 ml tincture, three times per day.

Diet

  • Avoid food allergens: People with inhalant allergies are likely to also have food allergies. A hypoallergenic diet has been reported to help people with asthma and allergic rhinitis, but the effect of such a diet on hay fever symptoms has not been studied. People with hay fever who are interested in exploring the possible effects of a food allergy avoidance program should talk with a doctor. Discovering and eliminating food allergens is likely to improve overall health even if such an approach were to have no effect on hay fever symptoms.

Symptoms

Inhaled allergens trigger sneezing and inflammation of the nose and mucous membranes, including the conjunctiva of the eyes. The nose, roof of the mouth, eyes and throat begin to itch gradually or abruptly after the pollen season begins. Tearing, sneezing and clear, watery nasal discharge soon follow the itching. Headaches and irritability may also occur.

Are Pollen Counts Helpful?

The amounts of pollen and molds in the air are measured daily in many areas around the United States and reported by the National Allergy Bureau. But the pollen and mold counts at which people develop allergic symptoms vary quite a lot by individual. So pollen and mold counts are not very helpful in predicting how a specific person will react.

Causes

Hay fever is an allergic reaction caused by allergens you breath and that move through your respiratory system, as well as the mucous lining of your eyes and even your ears.

It is usually problematic to identify specific allergens.

Once allergens contact your nose, throat and lungs, your immune system's white blood cells over-react and create antibodies to fight the offending allergic agent.

The antibodies are stored on special mast cells. They give rise to the release of mediators, chemicals and hormones like histamine, when the antibody comes in contact with the corresponding antigen.

Hay fever symptoms are caused by the resulting action of mediator hormones and chemical the body's cells and organs.

Pollen

Pollens are part of the fertilization process of flowering plants. These are the most common allergens. The wind transports pollen to other plants. Trees, grasses, perennials and annual plants all create pollen for fertilization. Some pollens appear to be more likely to cause allergic reactions, often coming from plants such as ragweed and goldenrod. Each species pollinates at specific times of the year just before the plant begins to bloom. So hay fever season is different for different varieties. Pollination is dependent on temperature zone, temperatures, last frost date and amount of rainfall.

Mold

Molds are another common allergen. They are tiny plants (fungus) that do not have the visible roots or leaves that we associate with plant life. Like pollen, mold spores are carried by the wind, or inside a house are moved by drafts throughout the area. They may be found both indoors and outdoors, in soil, in rotting woods, as well as in shaded, damp places where the air does not circulate. Indoors, they may thrive in attics, basements, garbage containers and walls and ceilings under a leaky roof.

Risk Factors

  • Repeated exposure to specific allergens over many years
  • Having a family history of hay fever or other chronic allergens
  • Other allergic conditions such as eczema or asthma
  • Nasal polyps (non-cancerous growths in the nose)
  • Sometimes more vulnerability with youth
  • Hormonal changes such as pregnancy.

Conventional Treatment

Oral antihistamines are often prescribed for relief of symptoms. These include diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine, brompheniramine, cetirizine, clemastine, and others. Oral non-sedating H1-blockers are also recommended, including loratidine, terfenidine, and astemizole. Sympathomimetic agents (e.g., phenylpropanolamine, phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine) are sometimes combined with antihistamines to counteract their tendency to cause drowsiness. Cromolyn sodium nasal spray (e.g., Nasalcrom®) may be recommended when antihistamines are ineffective. When nasal symptoms are not relieved by antihistamines, inhaled corticosteroids may be recommended.

Nasal Irrigation

Pouring warm salt water or saline through the nose may help relieve some of the irritation associated with rhinitis. A special pot, called a "neti lota" pot, can be used to administer the solution. Fill the pot with warm salt water, tilt the head to one side (over a sink), and pour the water into the upper nostril, allowing it to drain through the lower nostril. A little water may also be gently snuffled into the back of the throat and spit out. When finished, gently blow the nose to expel excess remaining water. Repeat on the opposite side. This procedure can be done several times a day.

Caution: Because tap or other water could be infected by the bacteria naegleria fowleri, which causes the fatal brain infection primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, be sure to properly sterilize your water by boiling before you use a neti pot.

Studies

See footnote references for the research.