It’s no surprise that we have seen an increase in childhood allergies. Infants and children are exposed to more allergens that cause lifelong allergies. For one, feeding cow’s milk instead of breast milk to infants stimulates the immune system. Infants and children also receive an increasing number of vaccines, which by definition stimulate the immune system in ways known and yet unknown. Plus, artificial ingredients in foods and beverages and chemical pollutants are another potential source of allergens.
When the EPA tests environmental chemicals, they look at various effects. But they don’t look at chemicals’ allergy-causing effects. Likewise, the FDA sometimes assesses food, drugs or cosmetics (with unfortunate and controversial consequences for the poor animals used in testing) for acute allergic activity. But there is no way to assess lifelong causes of allergies.
Of course, as you get older, your immune system slows down. So — you may find that allergies you experienced during childhood and young adulthood begin to ease up.
On the other hand, you can develop allergies — including allergies to grasses, plant pollens or pet dander — later in life. Or you may retire to another part of the country where the environment is new to your immune system, triggering a new “hay fever” allergy.
Moving to the desert not the same as it used to be
People used to move to the desert to escape air pollutants, plant pollens and allergens. But you now find non-native plants in the desert, particularly in the southwest “desert,” thanks to artificial irrigation.
People who live in Arizona complain they now experience the worst seasonal allergies of their lives. That experience happened to me one spring about 20 years ago when I was giving a talk at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In addition to the air pollution and heat of downtown Phoenix and Tucson, they now have the plant pollens.
In tropical and sub-tropical areas of Florida, you come in contact with plants that you have never encountered before, such as the Manzanita bush. Exposure to new plants can cause you to develop an allergy after the first season.
Plus, spring actually begins in February in Florida (as well as in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana) as the sun gets stronger after the solstice in December. So — “spring” allergies may spoil your winter vacation or residence.
What can you do to fight allergies naturally?
I decided to stop relying on over-the-counter allergy drugs many years ago because I just couldn’t think straight whenever I took them. I thought this was a temporary side effect, but as recent research shows, certain antihistamine drugs cause long-term cognition problems as well.
A key way to fight allergies is to keep your immune system healthy and balanced. Make sure to take a daily, high-quality B vitamin complex, as well as 5,000 IU of vitamin D and 1-2 g of fish oil.
Another way to prevent your immune system from becoming overtaxed during allergy season is to limit the allergens that enter your body. One simple method is to wash your hands and face frequently whenever the pollen flies.
You can also flush allergens from your eyes and nose by immersing your face underwater (salty water is best) and blinking your eyes several times, and then blowing out through your nose. Gargle with salt water to flush out your mouth and throat. And don’t be afraid to blow your nose regularly into a handkerchief or tissue — that’s Nature’s way of clearing out allergens.
Some common spices, such as capsaicin (hot red pepper), curry (turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili pepper), or horseradish, are great at clearing sinuses when used in food — in addition to all of their other health benefits. Chinese hot and sour soup (black pepper with vinegar) and Chinese hot mustard have the same effects.
To soothe an allergy-irritated throat, try hot tea with lemon and honey. And menthol and eucalyptus help with allergic cough and congestion.
All of these solutions provide relief — any time of year, no matter where you live — without putting you at risk for the serious side effects associated with prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications.