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Health: Take charge when it comes to spring allergies

An estimated 1 in 5 Americans will face a particularly miserable spring this year thanks to another record-breaking season of sneeze-inducing pollen.

The good news is that allergy sufferers can relieve their hacking coughs, runny noses and itchy eyes by taking protective steps and using pharmaceutical or natural medicines – or both.

It’s important to remember that pollen causes the symptoms, not the plants themselves. This fine dust can land in a person’s eyes, nose, lungs and on skin, causing the inflammation that ultimately makes people feel miserable.

These practical tips will help prevent the inhalation of allergens:

• When coming indoors after spending prolonged periods of time outside, leave shoes by the door and change clothing.

• Shower at bedtime to wash away pollen from hair so you are not breathing in pollen all night long.

• Sleep with your windows closed, especially as pollen counts peak in early morning hours.

• Drive with your windows up.

• Clean/wash your pets (fur and hair attracts pollen).

• Use salt water with a neti pot or a similar nasal irrigation system to rinse pollen from the lining of the nose to decrease inflammation and swelling.

• Wear sunglasses, especially on windy days so pollen doesn’t get in the eyes.

• An air purifier (HEPA filter) may help strip allergens from indoor air.

• Make sure you have proper screening on air conditioning systems to keep pollen, mold and other irritants at bay.

Research has shown that starting medications, such as a non- or low-sedating antihistamine (Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec) and/or an intranasal steroid (Nasacort and Flonase) before the allergy season has a good outcome. These options are available over the counter, as are allergy eye drops (Zatidor).

An alternative to allergy medications may include traditional Chinese herbs, acupuncture, nettles tea, or D-Hist, an herbal formula by Orthomolecular. This remedy includes four key ingredients: quercetin, stinging nettle leaf, bromelain and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).

You can either purchase these supplements separately or combined as D-Hist. Before combining these supplements with an existing treatment or medication, you should consult with your physician to confirm there won’t be any potential drug interactions.

A simple homemade remedy involves mixing local raw honey with turmeric, ginger and cinnamon into a gooey paste. Sprinkle a tiny bit of black pepper into it. Eat a teaspoon a day or mix in hot water as a tea for added relief from symptoms.

Dr. Jennifer S. Kim is an allergist/immunologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem. Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple is the director of NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine program. Visit for more information.

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