Allergy Symptoms
By Daniel More, MD
Updated April 14, 2016

Most everyone has an idea of what an allergy is. Allergies are so common, in fact, that it seems acceptable to discuss allergy symptoms at a cocktail party with perfect strangers.

An allergy is an abnormal reaction by a person’s immune system to a normally harmless substance. A person without allergies would have no reaction to this substance, but when a person who is allergic encounters the trigger, the body reacts by releasing chemicals which cause allergy symptoms.

Find out more about what happens during an allergic reaction.
In children, allergic disease first occurs as atopic dermatitis (eczema) or food allergies. Children with atopic dermatitis are then at an increased risk of developing allergic rhinitis and asthma; both are more likely to occur in school-age children.

Typically, atopic dermatitis goes away by adulthood, as do many types of food allergies. Allergic rhinitis and asthma, however, most often start during the adolescent, teenage and young adult years, and are likely to persist throughout a person’s life. The severity of allergic symptoms, however, may wax and wane, and even temporarily disappear during a person’s life.

Atopic Dermatitis
This is typically the first sign of allergies and is seen in 10 to 20% of all children, frequently during infancy. Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is characterized by itching, with rash formation at the sites of scratching.

The rash is typically red and dry, may have small blisters, and can flake and ooze over time.

In infants and very young children, this rash involves the face (especially the cheeks), chest and trunk, back of the scalp and may involve the arms and legs. This distribution reflects where the child is able to scratch, and therefore usually spares the diaper area.

The location of the rash changes in older children and adults to classically involve the skin in front of the elbows and behind the knees. Food and environmental allergies have been shown to worsen atopic dermatitis.

Food Allergies

Food allergies can occur at any age. Almost all people with food allergies will have a skin symptom, such as hives, swelling, itching or redness of the skin, as a result of eating the culprit food. These symptoms typically occur within a few minutes of eating the food in question, although they can be delayed up to a couple of hours.

Other symptoms of food allergies can include nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, diarrhea, breathing difficulties (asthma symptoms), runny nose, sneezing, and lightheadedness. In some cases, children can experience a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.
Find out more about:

Allergic rhinitis occurs in up to 30% of adults and up to 40% of children._MG_7302-L

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose and eyes and nasal congestion. Some people may also experience post-nasal drip, allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes), and a line across the nasal bridge from an upward rubbing of the palm of the hand on the nose, a sign called the “allergic salute.”

Allergies are a major cause of asthma, a condition that occurs in about 8% of all people. Though it can occur at any age, it is most often seen in males in the pre-teen years and in females in the teenage years; asthma is the most common chronic disease in children and young adults. Sometimes asthma is difficult to diagnose in very young children, and may require a physician who is an asthma specialist.

Symptoms of asthma may include:
Coughing — This can be the only symptom in some people who have “cough-variant asthma.” The cough is often dry, hacking, and may be worse with allergic triggers and after exercise. The cough may only be present at night. Cold air may also trigger this symptom.
Wheezing — This is a high-pitched, musical-like sound that can occur with breathing in and out in people with asthma. Wheezing usually occurs along with other asthma symptoms, may get worse with exercise and with allergic triggers.
Shortness of breath — Most people with asthma feel as if they’re not getting enough air at times, particularly when they are physically exerting themselves or when an allergic trigger is present. People with more severe asthma have shortness of breath at rest or wake-up with this symptom during the night.
Chest tightness — Some people describe this as a sensation that someone is squeezing or hugging them. Children may say that their chest hurts or feels “funny.”

Many asthmatics have symptoms with exercise; this does not necessarily mean that their asthma is severe or uncontrolled.

Do you have an interesting story on how you first determined that you had allergies? Share your story, and learn from other people, about how you figured out that your symptoms were allergies.

Natural Allergy Remedies

By Cathy Wong, ND
Updated May 18, 2016

What are Allergies?
Allergies are exaggerated immune responses to substances that are generally not considered harmful. There are many different types of allergies, such as food allergies and skin allergies. Allergic rhinitis is a type of allergy that occurs when your immune system overreacts to airborne particles such as dust, dander, or pollen, causing symptoms such as a runny or itchy nose and sneezing.

Symptoms of Allergy:

Runny nose, nasal congestion
Watery eyes
Itchy, watery eyes, nose or throat
Postnasal drip
Facial pressure or pain

Natural Allergy Remedies
So far, scientific support for the claim that any remedy can treat allergies is fairly lacking.

1) Butterbur
The herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is a shrub-like plant that grows in northern Asia, Europe, and parts of North America. Extracts made from the herb have been used in folk medicine for migraines, stomach cramps, coughs, allergies and asthma.
Butterbur is being studied as a natural allergy remedy. Although how butterbur works is still not known, it is thought to work in a similar way to allergy medications by blocking the action of histamine and leukotrienes, inflammatory chemicals involved in allergic reactions.

In a study involving 186 people with hay fever, participants took a higher dose of butterbur (one tablet three times a day), a lower dose (one tablet two times a day) or a placebo. After two weeks, both the higher and lower dose relieved allergy symptoms compared to the placebo, but there were significantly greater benefits seen with the higher dose.

In another study, 330 people with hay fever were given a butterbur extract (one tablet three times a day), the antihistamine drug fexofenadine (Allegra), or a placebo. Butterbur was as effective as fexofenadine at relieving sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and other hay fever symptoms, and both treatments were more effective than the placebo.
Side effects of butterbur may include indigestion, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrha, or constipation. Pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with kidney or liver disease should not take butterbur.
Butterbur is in the ragweed plant family, so people who are allergic to ragweed, marigold, daisy, or chrysanthemum should avoid butterbur.
The raw herb as well as teas, extracts, and capsules made from the raw herb should not be used because they contain substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can be toxic to the liver and kidneys and may cause cancer.
It is possible to remove the pyrrolizidine alkaloids from butterbur products.

For example, in Germany, there is a safety limit to the level of pyrrolizidine alkaloids allowed in butterbur products. The daily recommended dose cannot exceed 1 microgram per day.

2) Quercetin

Quercetin is a type of antioxidant called a flavonoid. Although there is still isn’t enough research to conclude that quercetin is an effective allergy remedy, it is thought to prevent the release of the inflammatory chemical histamine, which is involved in allergy symptoms such as sneezing and itching.
Quercetin is found naturally in certain foods, such as apples (with the skin on), berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea. It is also available in supplement form. A typical dose for allergies and hay fever is between 200 and 400 milligrams three times a day.
To find out more about quercetin, read my article on Quercetin and find out more about Quercetin for Allergies.

3) Carotenoids

Carotenoids are a family of plant pigments, the most popular being beta-carotene. Although no randomized controlled trials show that carotenoids are effective remedies for allergies, a lack of carotenoids in the diet is thought to promote inflammation in your airways.
There are no guidelines or research that suggests a certain target intake for hay fever. Many people don’t even get one serving of carotenoid-rich foods a day. If this is you, consider striving for one to two servings a day to up your intake.
Good sources of carotenoids include apricots, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, kale, butternut squash, and collard greens.
Related: Foods for Boosting the Immune System

4) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid that we must obtain through our diet. Research suggests that they may reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body (prostaglandin E2 and inflammatory cytokines).
Although there are no randomized controlled trials showing that omega-3 fatty acids are effective allergy remedies, a German study involving 568 people found that a high content of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells or in the diet was associated with a decreased risk of hay fever.
Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are:
Fish oil capsules: providing 1 to 1.2 grams of EPA and DHA per day. Side effects of fish oil may include indigestion and a fishy aftertaste. Fish oil has a mild “blood-thinning” effect. If taking warfarin (Coumadin) or heparin or are at risk of bleeding complications, do not take fish oil without consulting a doctor. Fish oil should not be taken two weeks before or after surgery.
Flaxseed oil: 1 tablespoon two to three times a day.
Walnuts, 1 ounce (14 halves) a day

At the same time, reducing foods rich in arachidonic acid might be wise. One study found an association between arachidonic acid and hay fever. Although arachidonic acid is essential for health, too much has been found to worsen inflammation. This means reducing intake of egg yolks, red meat, and shellfish.
More about Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
Continued on the next page: food, nettles, nasal irrigation, and acupuncture for allergies…

5) Identifying Food Sensitivities

Just like we can have allergies to airborne substances, some people with allergies and hay fever may react to certain foods. Our diet tends to follow the seasons, so if there are foods you eat more of in the spring, you may wish to note if your symptoms get worse after you eat them and bring them to your doctor’s attention.

People with lactose intolerance may notice that they feel more congested after consuming dairy products.

Preliminary studies suggest that some people with allergies to grass pollens may also react to tomatoes, peanuts, wheat, apple, carrot, celery, peach, melon, eggs and pork, and that people with ragweed allergies may also react to foods in the Cucurbitaceae family, such as cucumber and melon.
An elimination-and-challenge diet is usually conducted to identify any food sensitivities. It involves the removal of suspected foods from the diet for at least a week, followed by the systematic re-introduction of these foods to isolate any foods that may be aggravating hay fever symptoms. Known food allergies and sensitivities are not tested. It should be done under the guidance of a health professional.

6) Nettles
Nettle is a herbal remedy derived from the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) bush. A number of studies suggest that nettle may help with allergy symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, and itchiness, possibly by reducing inflammation.
More about neetles.

7) Nasal Irrigation
A nasal irrigation, or nasal rinse, is often touted as a remedy for allergies or hay fever. It is an at-home remedy that involves using salt water to clear nasal passages. Research suggests that it may be helpful for people with allergies. More about nasal irrigation.

8) Acupuncture for Allergies
Acupuncture is a healing practice that originated in China over 5,000 years ago. Although studies have examined acupuncture for allergies, there haven’t been large, randomized controlled trials.
In a German study published in the journal Allergy, 52 people with hay fever received acupuncture (once a week) and a Chinese herbal tea designed to address allergic symptoms (three times a day) or sham acupuncture and a regular herbal tea. After 6 weeks, people who received the acupuncture and herbal treatment noticed an 85 percent improvement on a “global assessment of change” scale compared to 40 percent in the control group. They also noticed a significant improvement in the quality of life questionnaire. There was no difference however in symptoms.
In another study, 72 children with hay fever received either acupuncture (twice a week) or sham acupuncture. After eight weeks, the real acupuncture was more effective at improving symptoms and was associated with more symptom-free days compared to sham acupuncture.

Using Natural Remedies for Allergies
Due to a lack of supporting research, it’s too soon to recommend any remedy for the treatment of allergies. Supplements haven’t been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you’re considering the use of alternative medicine, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.



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