Whether it's the long-awaited change of winter into spring, or the quiet
fading of summer into fall, for many folks the changing of the seasons means
more than just vacation plans and a new wardrobe -- it signals the start of seasonal allergies.
Sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, and itchy,
watery, red eyes -- these are just some of the symptoms that more than 35
million Americans face each year as the pollen from trees, grass, flowers, and
plants makes it way into the air.
Spring is in the air. Literally. From weeds to spores to grass and tree pollens, the warm weather is almost here, driving airborne allergen levels through the roof. That means your allergy symptoms -- the sniffling, sneezing, and itchy eyes -- are in overdrive and apt to stay that way for months.
What can you do? WebMD asked some of the country's leading allergy experts to weigh in with answers to your top questions about spring allergies. Here are suggestions for helping you find some much-needed...
For many, relief is just a drugstore counter away -- with a wide array of
traditional medications available to help. However, for an
increasing number of allergy sufferers the road to relief is best paved by
Mother Nature, with a variety of all-natural treatments that studies show can
help -- often without many of the troubling side effects ascribed to
"Using nature-based products can be a very useful way to handle mild
allergies and a useful adjunct for more significant allergies, and there are
many types of treatments you can safely try," says Mary Hardy, MD, director of
integrative medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in
Among those generating the loudest buzz right now is the European herb
butterbur (Petasites hybridus), which, says Hardy, "has had some very
impressive clinical trial results."
In one study, published recently in the British Medical Journal, a
group of Swiss researchers showed how just one tablet of butterbur four times
daily was as effective as a popular antihistamine drug in
controlling symptoms of hay fever -- without the
traditional symptom of drowsiness that sometimes occurs. In a second study,
presented at the 60th annual
meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), a
group of British researchers put their stamp of approval on butterbur's
effectiveness in quelling symptoms of grass allergy.
Other herbal supplements proving helpful,
says Hardy, include freeze-dried nettles and a tonic made from the herb
goldenseal, which she recommends adding to still one more natural treatment --
a saline (salt water) nasal spray.
"The saline works to wash out pollen and reduce or thin mucous -- the
goldenseal has astringent and local antibacterial properties which can aid in
this process," Hardy tells WebMD.
In addition to herbs, many naturopathic doctors also believe certain
nutrients can be helpful in quieting seasonal symptoms. Among the most popular
are grape seed extract and a flavonoid compound known as quercetin. Although
both occur naturally in many foods -- and are especially abundant in red wine
-- when used in supplement form they can be extremely helpful in reducing allergy
symptoms, particularly in conjunction with vitamin C, says James Dillard,
"There is even some evidence that quercetin may control the release of
histamine and other chemicals that help initiate the allergic response," says
Dillard, clinical advisor to Columbia University's Rosenthal Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and
assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and