The Allergy Epidemic
It used to be that allergy sufferers were affected by pollens only in early spring when most flowers and grasses begin blooming after a long cold winter, creating a massive pollen storm.
While this is still true, it is also true that the seasonal allergy season has become a year-long event affecting more people, and even pets, all summer long and well into the fall. It has been referred to by numerous medical experts as an allergy epidemic brought about by climate change and increased temperatures. Dr. Oz and leading New York allergy specialist, Dr. Clifford Bassett, admit that allergies and allergy seasons are getting worse and lasting longer.
If you suffer from repeated sinus and allergy problems, you are not alone. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics reports that sinus and allergy problems are the number one chronic health complaint across the country, with over 60 million sufferers. * Annual U.S. Prevalence Statistics for Chronic Diseases
SEASONAL ALLERGY OR YEAR ROUND?
Some allergies are considered more “seasonal” while others are on-going and can bring misery to the sufferer all year round. “Seasonal” allergies (also called “seasonal allergic rhinitis” [SAR], “hay fever,” or “nasal” allergies) occur when allergens that are commonly found outdoors are inhaled into the nose and the lungs causing allergic reactions. Examples of commonly inhaled outdoor allergens are tree, grass and weed pollen and mold spores. The allergic reaction to all plants that produce pollen is commonly known as hay fever.
Symptoms include eye irritation, runny nose, stuffy nose, puffy eyes, sneezing, and inflamed, itchy nose and throat. For those with severe allergies, asthma attacks, chronic sinusitis, headaches and impaired sleep are symptoms. Warm weather also brings some not-so-welcome visitors in the form of stinging insects. For most people, these small creatures are an annoyance that threaten to ruin outdoor fun. But for some 2 million Americans, these insects pose a far more serious threat of a life-threatening allergic reaction. Other allergens existing outdoors are poisonous plants, and these, as well as insects, are considered “contact,” “skin” or “insect” allergens rather than “inhaled” allergens.
Year round allergies include indoor allergies (“perennial allergic rhinitis” [PAR], often called “nasal” allergies). These occur when allergens that are commonly found indoors are inhaled into the nose and the lungs causing allergic reactions. Examples of indoor allergens are airborne cat or dog dander, dust mite feces and mold spores. Other year round allergies are food allergies and allergic reactions to certain drugs. They are characterized by a broad range of allergic reactions to ingredients in the foods we eat or the medications we take. Food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system, different than food intolerance or food sensitivity. The U.S. Food Allergy Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) now requires food labels to clearly identify all allergen ingredients (even if it's a spice or flavoring), and to discourage labels with ‘may contain' statements.
An allergy is characterized by an overreaction of the human immune system to a foreign protein substance (“allergen”) that is eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected or touched. This immune overreaction can result in symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. In severe cases it can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and asthma attacks.
The job of immune system cells is to find foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria and get rid of them. Normally, this response protects us from dangerous diseases. People with allergies have specially-sensitive immune systems that react when they contact certain harmless substances called allergens. While there are no cures for allergies, they can be managed with proper prevention and treatment. Allergies have a genetic component. If only one parent has allergies of any type, chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have an allergy. If both parents have allergies, it is much more likely (7 in 10) that their children will have allergies. More Americans than ever before say they are suffering from allergies. It is among the country's most common, yet often overlooked, diseases.
- Allergies are the most frequently reported chronic condition in children, limiting activities for more than 40% of them.
- Each year, allergies account for more than 17 million outpatient office visits, primarily in the spring and fall; seasonal allergies account for more than half of all allergy visits. 
- Skin allergies alone account for more than 7 million outpatient visits each year. 
- Food allergies account for 30,000 visits to the emergency room each year. 
- Exposure to latex allergen alone is responsible for over 200 cases of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions) each year. 
 “Anaphylaxis in the United States,” Archives of Internal Medicine, 2001
 “Anaphylaxis in the United States,” Archives of Internal Medicine, 2001
POLLEN: Pollen is a very fine powder released by trees, weeds and grasses. It is carried to another plant of the same kind, to fertilize the forerunner of new seeds. This is called pollination. The pollen of some plants is carried from plant to plant by bees and other insects. These plants usually have brightly colored flowers and sweet scents to attract insects. They seldom cause allergic reactions. Other plants rely on the wind to carry pollen from plant to plant. These plants have small, drab flowers and little scent. These are the plants that cause most allergic reactions, or hay fever.
When conditions are right, a plant starts to pollinate. Weather affects how much pollen is carried in the air each year, but it has less effect on when pollination occurs. As a rule, weeds pollinate in late summer and fall. Weeds that cause allergic reactions are ragweed, cocklebur, lamb's quarters, plantain, pigweed, tumbleweed or Russian thistle and sagebrush. Trees that pollinate in late winter and spring, ash, beech, birch, cedar, cottonwood, box, elder, elm, hickory, maple and oak pollen can trigger allergies. Also Grasses which pollinate in late spring and summer including Kentucky bluegrass, timothy, Johnson, Bermuda, redtop, orchard, rye and sweet vernal grasses. Much pollen is released early in the morning, shortly after dawn. This results in high counts near the source plants. Pollen travels best on warm, dry, breezy days and peaks in urban areas midday. Pollen counts are lowest during chilly, wet periods.
RAGWEED: Ragweed’s are weeds that grow throughout the United States. They are most common in the Eastern states and the Midwest. A plant lives only one season, but that plant produces up to 1 billion pollen grains. Pollen-producing and seed-producing flowers grow on the same plant but are separate organs. After midsummer, as nights grow longer, ragweed flowers mature and release pollen. Warmth, humidity and breezes after sunrise help the release. The pollen must then travel by air to another plant to fertilize the seed for growth the coming year. Come late summer, some 10 to 20 percent of Americans begin to suffer from ragweed allergy, or hay fever. Sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, itchy eyes, nose and throat and trouble sleeping make life miserable for these people. Some of them also must deal with asthma attacks. Of Americans who are allergic to pollen-producing plants, 75 percent are allergic to ragweed. People with allergies to one type of pollen tend to develop allergies to other pollens as well.
MOLD: Mold and mildew are fungi. They differ from plants or animals in how they reproduce and grow. The "seeds," called spores, are spread by the wind. Allergic reactions to mold are most common from July to late summer. Although there are many types of molds, only a few dozen cause allergic reactions. Alternaria, Cladosporium (Hormodendrum), Aspergillums, Penicillium, Helminthosporium, Epicoccum, Fusarium, Mucor, Rhizopus and Aureobasidium (pullularia) are the major culprits. Many molds grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, in compost piles and on grasses and grains. Unlike pollens, molds do not die with the first killing frost. Most outdoor molds become dormant during the winter. In the spring they grow on vegetation killed by the cold. Mold counts are likely to change quickly, depending on the weather. Certain spore types reach peak levels in dry, breezy weather. Some need high humidity, fog or dew to release spores. This group is abundant at night and during rainy periods.
PET DANDER: People with pet allergies have supersensitive immune systems that react to harmless proteins in the pet's dander (dead skin that is shed), saliva or urine. These proteins are called allergens. Dander is the culprit; actual pet hair is not an allergen. Pet hair collects dander, which can also harbor other allergens like dust and pollen. Dogs and cats secrete fluids and shed dander that contains the allergens. They collect on fur and other surfaces. The allergens will not lose their strength for a long time, sometimes for several months. They appear to be sticky and adhere to walls, clothing and other surfaces. Cat and dog allergens are everywhere. Pet dander is even in homes never occupied by these animals because it is carried on people's clothing. The allergens get in the air with petting, grooming or stirring the air where the allergens have settled. Once airborne, the particles can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time. Six out of 10 people in the United States come in contact with cats or dogs. The total pet population is more than 100 million or about four pets for every 10 people. Allergies to pets with fur or feathers are common, especially among people who have other allergies or asthma. From 15 percent to 30 percent of people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. People with dog allergies may be allergic to all dogs or to only some breeds. Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN OTC, MEDS AND HERBAL REMEDIES
So what do those who suffer from watery eyes, wheezing, sneezing, headache, runny nose, and an itchy throat, and who feel miserable much of the year, do to get some relief from their symptoms?
Allergy medications are available as pills, liquids, inhalers, nasal sprays, eye drops, skin creams and shots (injections). Some allergy medications are available over-the-counter, while others are available by prescription only. These many varieties of over-the-counter drugs as well as stronger prescription medications are widely advertised and purport to give the user their life back and freedom from symptoms. However, antihistamines and other treatments often cause other unpleasant side effects such as feeling exhausted, wanting to do nothing more than sleep and feeling “spacey”. There are also lists of unpleasant side effects. For example: “Side effects can include unpleasant smell or taste, nasal irritation and nosebleeds”, “may include bitter taste, dizziness, drowsiness or fatigue, dry mouth, headache, nasal burning, nosebleed, nausea, runny nose, sore throat, and sneezing,” “can cause a number of side effects, including irritability, fast or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, tremors, and increased blood pressure.”
Herbal Remedies, on the other hand, do not cause side effects like the medications lists above. They also are designed to address the cause of the body’s elevated response, reduce the inflammation, strengthen the immune system and support it in remaining free from infections.
Common Herbs used to deal with allergies the natural way are:
BITTER ORANGE EXTRACT (CITRUS AURANTIUM): Over the centuries bitter oranges have been highly valued for their food and medicinal properties. Bitter orange contains important neuroactive amines such as synephrine, octopamine and tyramine. Synephrine and octopamine are similar to the catecholamines, noradrenaline and adrenaline found in the sympathetic nerve fibers. The most active constituent of Citrus aurantium L. is synephrine. Synephrine works as an anti-inflammatory to the respiratory mucosal lining. It has also been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat chest congestion.
QUERCETIN: A bioflavonoid, Quercetin taken daily can stabilize the white blood cells that are responsible for the release of histamine that accompanies allergies. Quercetin has antioxidant properties that can stabilize a hyper immune system along with a respiratory tract that has been invaded by toxins, viruses, and bacteria which lead to allergy attacks. The flavonoids found in Quercetin work an anti-inflammatory, which is useful in supporting lung health during a variety of breathing issues. The benefits of Quercetin are not limited to allergies and asthma as it is also known for supporting the body as it deals with hives, which often accompany allergic reactions. Quercetin has been experienced by many people to effectively reduce allergy attacks, hives, and other respiratory ailments that run with inflammatory immune and lung diseases.
Quercetin works by inhibiting the synthesis of enzymes that can cause allergic reactions. Quercetin has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity because of its ability to directly inhibit several initial processes of inflammation. For example, it inhibits both the manufacture and release of histamine and other allergic/inflammatory mediators. Quercetin has been shown to have antiviral properties.
GUARANA (PAULLINIA CUPANA): A study published in the Journal of Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry demonstrates that guarana seed extract can be used in allergy therapy. The study revealed that guarana inhibits an allergic reaction through preventing hives. Guarana helps reduce allergic reactions induced by increases in mast cells and immunoglobulin E, IgE. Part of the normal immune system, mast cells are rich in histamine, which is the substance responsible for the allergic reactions of watery eyes, stuffy nose and inflammation. IgE is from the class of blood proteins called antibodies. This plant of many legends from Brazil contains natural caffeine and is known as a physical and mental energizer. Taken daily by millions in Brazil, Guarana is known as a blood cleanser and intestinal detoxification agent as well as an energy booster.
FENUGREEK (TRIGONELLA FOENUM-GRAECUM): Fenugreek is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is one of the oldest plants recorded as having medicinal purposes. It supports people with allergies by soothing the membranes of sinuses. It aides the body in getting rid of mucous, by working as an expectorant, which supports people with asthma and respiratory discomfort Beneficial for lung disorders, It also aids in reducing inflammation and fever.
GOLDENSEAL ROOT (HYDRASTIS CANDENSIS): A bitter herb that strengthens the immune system, acts as an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial, cleanses mucus membranes, soothes inflamed tissues, and stimulates the central nervous system. It is good for colds, flu, inflammation, and glandular swelling. Because of its hydrastine alkaloid, it is a specific for healing the mucus membranes or inflamed tissue in the body.
EUCALYPTUS LEAVES (EUCALYPTUS GLOBUS): The eucalyptus tree is native to Australia. The oil was used in traditional Aboriginal medicines to heal wounds and fungal infections. Teas made of eucalyptus leaves were also used to reduce fevers. Eucalyptus is also used in other traditional natural healing systems, including Chinese, Ayurvedic, Greek and European. In 19th-century England, eucalyptus oil was used in hospitals to clean equipment. Laboratory tests have shown that eucalyptus oil contains substances that kill bacteria. It also may kill some viruses and fungi. Studies in animals and test tubes also found that eucalyptus oil acts as an expectorant, meaning it loosens phlegm and has decongestant properties.