Friday, June 9, 2017

Seasonal Allergies: Which Medication is Right for You?

An allergy is your body’s reaction to a substance that it has identified as an invader. If you have allergies and encounter a trigger – called an “allergen”- your immune system fights it by releasing chemicals called histamines (hence the term “antihistamines”). Histamines cause symptoms such as repetitive sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.

Seasonal allergies are usually caused by plant pollen, which can come from trees, weeds and grasses in the spring, and by ragweed and other weeds in late summer and early fall.

Since you can’t always stay indoors when pollen counts are high, your health care provider may recommend prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve symptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates a number of medications that offer allergy relief.

Antihistamines reduce or block symptom-causing histamines and are available in many forms, including tablets and liquids. Many oral antihistamines are available OTC and in generic form.

When choosing an OTC antihistamine, patients should read the Drug Facts label closely and follow dosing instructions, says Jenny Kelty, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist and the FDA. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness and interfere with the ability to drive or operate heavy machinery, like a car. There are other antihistamines that do not have this side effect; they are non-sedating. Some non-sedating antihistamines are available by prescription.

Nasal corticosteroids are typically sprayed into the nose once or twice a day to treat inflammation. Side effects may include stinging in the nose.

Decongestants are drugs available both by prescription and OTC and come in oral and nasal spray forms. They are sometimes recommended in combination with antihistamines, which used alone do not have an effect on nasal congestion.

Drugs that contain pseudoephedrine are available without a prescription but are kept behind the pharmacy counter to prevent their use in making methamphetamine – a powerful, highly addictive stimulant often produced illegally in home laboratories. You will need to ask your pharmacist and show identification to purchase drugs that contain pseudoephedrine.

Using decongestant nose sprays and drops more than a few days may give you a “rebound” effect – your nasal congestion could get worse. These drugs are more useful for short-term use to relieve nasal congestion.

My Take:
You can modulate an overt histamine response with several nutritional supplements. They are effective, safe and have no “rebound” effect. By the way, the rebound effect is from adrenal hormone suppression which can have negative, long term side effects.

For relief from seasonal allergies I recommend Antronex. It is a liver extract that stimulates removal of histamine through the liver. I also use it for bee stings, red ant bites, or any acute histamine response like hives.

For more chronic allergy issues folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 are all vital to the body’s antihistamine response. As I have noted in several previous blogs, all three of these vitamins are converted from their food form to their bioavailable form in the lining of the small intestine. A third of the population has genetic defects that limit the conversion of one or more of these vitamins.

The Bottom Line:
There are natural approaches to seasonal allergies that are safer and more effective than OTC or even prescription drugs. Just because these drugs are readily available and commonly used does not make them a good standard of practice.

Source: June 1, 2017 FDA Consumer Update

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