Doctors give advice on treatment for cold, flu, allergies


It's October and leaves are starting to turn, there's a nip to the air some mornings and, all of a sudden, a scratchy feeling in your throat. And then there's the sneezing, the coughing or maybe a minor headache. Are you getting sick with a cold — or even the flu — or is it just allergies?

Fall allergy season, and cold and flu season overlap in early autumn, a triple threat to your sinus passages, but proper prevention and treatment will vary depending on what is causing that congestion. Fortunately, there are some guidelines for determining just what you're dealing with: The Times caught up with Dr. Hava Ladinsky, an allergy/immunologist with the Maryland Asthma and Allergy Center in Westminster, and Dr. Wendy Miller, a primary care physician with the Carroll Health Group in Eldersburg, to discuss the fall allergy/cold/flu season and what people need to know to keep themselves healthy.

Q: There's often a lot of focus on allergies in the spring and early summer when there is a lot of plant pollen in the air. What causes fall allergies? What's the normal duration of the fall allergy season? The fall allergy season typically runs from August to mid-October/November and peaks mid-September. Ragweed pollen is one of the top triggers for fall allergy symptoms. Other weed pollens also bloom this time of year. Another big trigger is mold, which grows well among rotting leaves. Raking leaves and mowing the lawn can both increase mold and pollen in the air. Some children will note increased allergy symptoms when they return to school due to dust mite allergies.

Q: What about symptoms? Is there anything unique about fall allergies or do they present for most people just like spring allergies? Like spring allergies, fall allergies may present with sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, and post-nasal drip. Some people also complain of itchy, red, watery, and swollen eyes. Worsening nasal symptoms may lead to coughing and trigger asthma symptoms. In some patients, ragweed allergies may also trigger oral allergy syndrome (OAS), where the body's immune system becomes confused and triggers an allergic response. The proteins in some fruits and vegetables are similar to the proteins in certain pollens. When a person ingests raw fruit or vegetables, OAS may lead to an itchy mouth and throat or swollen lips, tongue, or throat. Very rarely does OAS lead to severe, life-threatening allergic reactions. People with ragweed allergy may be symptomatic when they eat melons, banana, cucumber, and zucchini. Cooking the fruit or vegetable often reduces or alleviates OAS symptoms. Birch trees are another important trigger of OAS, however, they bloom in the spring and are associated with different fruits and vegetables.

Q: Is there any connection between whether or not you suffer from allergies in the spring and dealing with fall allergies. Not everyone suffers from both spring and fall allergies. However, it is not unusual for patients who suffer from spring allergies to also suffer from fall allergies. Allergies, including seasonal and food allergies, may occur at any age. Adult onset allergies typically begin in a person's 20s or 30s but may develop even later. It is not clear what causes a person to react to allergens in their environment they had previously tolerated. However, family history plays an important role in allergies. A change in environmental exposures may trigger a person's predisposition to allergies and allergic reactions. Or a person may be exposed to a large enough quantity of allergen that they reach a threshold that triggers a reaction.

Q: What are the recommended treatments for fall allergies? Is there a spectrum of care based on how severe a person's allergies are? In addition to medical management of fall allergies, patients may also introduce environmental precautions to reduce allergy symptoms. This includes keeping the windows closed and running the air conditioning. It is also important to regularly change or clean the filters. Staying inside from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when pollen counts are highest, may reduce symptoms. Consider changing clothes and showering after spending time outside. Some patients benefit from wearing filter masks when mowing the lawn and raking leaves.

Q: Cold and flu season is also almost upon us. Are there any rules of thumb you could pass on for determining whether or not symptoms are a cold or just allergies? Is that even an important distinction to make? This distinction is important, as the treatment is different for allergies and viral illnesses. Fall allergy symptoms typically occur all at once with clear, thin, watery nasal discharge and no fever. Symptoms continue as long as the person is exposed to the allergen. A cold begins one to three days after exposure to a virus and symptoms typically occur sequentially. Viral illness symptoms include watery or thick, yellow mucus drainage, body aches, and low grade fevers. Symptoms typically last seven to 10 days.

Dr. Miller: Cold and Flu Q: What is cold and flu season? An annually recurring time period when we see outbreaks of the cold and flu. The season is typically during the cold half of the year, in this area, beginning in October.

Q: What's the difference between the cold and the flu? They are both viral infections right? Yes, the common cold and flu are caused by a virus that is spread by airborne droplets or contact. Flu is caused by the influenza virus and the common cold is caused by one of many viruses, most likely the rhinovirus.

Q: Sometimes people are not sure if the beginnings of cold-like symptoms are a cold or just allergies. What about the common cold and the flu — how do you distinguish one from the other? Unfortunately both can cause coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, body aches and a fever lasting seven to 15 days. The only way to be sure is to get a flu test.

Q: What about treatments? We all know there is no cure for the common cold, but there are all kinds of supplements and fizzy drinks and folk cures that claim to boost your immune system and shorten the length of a cold. Do any of these, such as extra vitamin C or Zinc, actually help? Is boosting your immune response even something you want to do when it comes to cold? True, there is no cure for the cold. Treatments are aimed at relieving the symptoms. Boosting your immune system is only helpful if you have a weakened immune system to begin with.

Q: What about the flu? It's a more serious infection. What should people do to avoid it, and what happens if they fail to avoid it? How can they mitigate the severity and length of their illness? Flu can be a more serious infection. Often with high fever and sudden onset of extreme fatigue. Flu can lead to pneumonia and even death. An annual flu shot is indicated above age 6 months. Hand washing is the best protection, avoid contact with people that have symptoms and get tested for the flu if you develop symptoms. Those that test positive can be treated with antiviral medication. This medication needs to be started within 48 to 72 hours of onset of symptoms.

Q: Some people get their flu shot religiously, others swear it's not worth it. Can you address some of the myths about the flu shot and give a clear case as to who should get it, when and why? Each year the flu virus changes and the flu shot is redesigned each year. The shot contains inactivated virus antigens, not the live virus itself, and it cannot give you the flu. Very few people have mild side effects from the shot. The risk of getting the flu outweighs the risk of side effects from the vaccine. This is especially true for the elderly —over 65 years old — and those with other chronic illness. Getting the flu shot in early October is the best protection.

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What are the five most common fall allergies in children?

Fall has arrived with a violent sneeze. Fall allergies are more common than you might think. Children are in a new school environment, which gives them more to sneeze at. Plus, there are new pollen, stirred up dust mites and accumulated molds that come with the season. Allergies bloom in kids just when you think they're safe. Here are the five most common fall allergies to watch for in your children.

  1. Ragweed. Ragweed is easily the biggest culprit when it comes to fall allergies in children and adults alike. Ragweed pollinates in August and continues for well over a month. The pollen from ragweed can travel long distances, so even if none is nearby, your children can be at risk. If your child suffers from fall allergies, ragweed is the number one suspect.
  2. Mold. Mold can accumulate under piles of wet leaves or in damp areas of the home. Children with allergies spend more time indoors during the fall season. That makes them highly susceptible to mold and other indoor allergens. Tumbling in that pile of leaves as part of autumn outdoor fun could bring on an allergic reaction as well.
  3. Dust Mites. The dust bunnies are back and they're creating havoc with your child's allergies. After spring cleaning, the dust bunnies settle down. Accumulation through the summer months bring them back in the fall. Running the forced air furnace can do it too. Whether your child is at school, or at home, spending more time among the dust bunnies could have dust mite allergies kicking in.
  4. Food Allergies. Back to school means back to school lunches. Children with allergies may forget about those foods they're supposed to avoid when in school. Some kids will even eat foods they know cause a reaction just to fit in with friends. Some may do it absentmindedly too. Be sure to make the lunch staff aware of your child's food allergies.
  5. Trees. There are certain trees that pollinate in the fall. One of these is a type of sumac tree. You will see big bunches of pollen literally dripping from it's branches in the autumn months. When that pollen drops and spreads itself around, be sure to have plenty of children's allergy medicine in stock.

In a small initial study conducted by PhD researchers and doctors of Finland's University of Turku, child and pet comingling increases the likelihood of animal gut bacteria transfer, which will then help increase the immunity of the child against different types of allergens, including pet dander. Pet dander is considered as one of the most common triggers of allergy diseases. It contains a protein from the dried saliva of dogs and cats that causes the immune system to overreact that can result to the appearance of allergy symptoms.

For the study, Dr. Merja Nermes, one of the authors, and her colleagues wanted to determine the extent of the effects of pet exposure to a child's immune system using an ongoing probiotic study participated by pregnant women who have allergy history. Allergies are assumed to have a genetic predisposition. Children who are born to parents who have allergies are at least 50% likely to develop the condition as well.

Among the pool of participants, they selected 51 women with infants and pets and 64 who have babies but no pets to serve as the control group.

The babies in both groups underwent two types of tests at different times. When they were one month, their DNA was tested for presence of the animal gut bacteria, specifically B. pseudolongnum and B thermophium, using the fecal sample from diapers. When analyzed, 33% of the first group had tested positive of the bacteria while around 14% of the control group had them, although it's unclear how they had obtained the bacteria.

When they turned half year, the researchers conducted a skin prick test to find out which allergies the babies are prone to. More than 15 of the babies had allergic reactions, but for those with B. thermophilum, they didn't have any.

Although the study doesn't say if the protection extends until way later in life, it's clear that parents should not stop themselves having pets at home while the child is still a baby.

In an another earlier study, farm dust can help control or prevent allergy symptoms and asthma as the protein present in it can make the mucus in the lungs to become less sensitive to allergens.  

Targeting Pressure Points For Allergy Relief


It's fall ragweed season and if that stuffy nose and sinus pain are making you miserable, you might find relief in ancient Chinese medicine. Jamie Starkey is an acupuncturist at Cleveland Clinic. She said stimulating different points on the body with tiny needles, or your even fingertips, may provide some quick relief.

Seasonal snifflers who got needled by an acupuncturist 12 times over the course of 8 weeks showed more improvement in their symptoms and used medication less frequently than people who didn’t get acupuncture or got a sham treatment, according to one clinical trial published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that acupuncture treatments can help bring the body into balance. Preliminary Western research, meanwhile, suggests that these strategically placed needles may help control inflammation by reining in various chemicals that contribute to an allergic reaction.

"Clinical studies in the acupuncture field are showing that stimulating these various acupuncture points help to promote an antihistamine effect," explained Starkey. Acupuncture is a practice where hair-thin needles are inserted into "acu-points" on the body to treat or prevent illness. Starkey uses acupuncture to treat allergy symptoms like a stuffy nose, sinus headaches and sinus pressure. As part of a treatment plan, she also teaches "acu-pressure," an off-shoot of acupuncture where you use your fingers, or another small object, to apply pressure instead of needles. She said acu-pressure is easy to learn and you can do it anywhere.

For allergy relief, there are two places on your face where you apply gentle, firm pressure. The first spot is at the base of your nose and you use your index fingers to press and hold to relieve sinus pressure. The second spot involves pressing at the top of each inner eyebrow to help relieve pressure in your forehead. Gently press and hold each spot for about three minutes. Starkey said many people feel instant relief.

"You'll feel your nose opening up if you have some nasal congestion. You'll feel the pressure relief in your head, oftentimes headaches will go away so sometimes patients will often feel immediate relief," Starkey explained. Starkey said most people don't experience any side effects from acupressure and it's generally considered very safe, however there are certain points that pregnant women should avoid. Expecting mothers should consult with a professional before applying treatment themselves.

Pollen Report: Wet and warm weather spurs fall allergies

August ushers into the Northeast its share of sneezes, wheezes and itchy eyes. Informal polls suggest things are worse this year. Empirical confirmation was provided last week by Dr. Edward Kent of South Burlington-based Timberlane Allergy and Asthma Research. In direct proportion to much of our suffering, Kent said, ragweed has flourished: Billions of its tiny pollen grains took to the wind two weeks ago — about a week earlier than usual. That premature abundance has "primed" the allergic response of vulnerable folk, making them increasingly sensitive to subsequent exposure, he said.

Moderate pollen levels, then, have boosted the indices of discomfort. Kent monitors airborne irritants and treats patients whose immune and respiratory systems rage into misguided overdrive at the slightest whiff of pollen, mold spores, dust mites, pet dander and the like. His lab's mold-spore and pollen counts routinely inform local weather reports and forecasts. Because the chief suspects are microscopic, Kent suggested a look at them through a microscope.

Lynne Moon, the clinical research supervisor at Timber Lane Allergy, introduced visitors to her latest batch of aerialists, captured and immobilized on needle-thin, silicone greased plastic rods. A mold spore (Alternaria) resembled a snowshoe track in pink-dyed snow. A cluster of six, globe-like plantain pollen grains decked the microscope slide like baby fruit. A snowshoe-shaped fungus spore (Alternaria) is visible under a microscope at Timberlane Allergy and Asthma Research in South Burlington. The common, airborne spore is among many that can trigger allergic reactions.

Ragweed pollen, too, proved beautiful: pitted, spiky balls — like an asteroid-slammed planet. Moon's counting procedure takes hours. At the end of a thrice-weekly session, she first translates her census into particles-per-square-meter of air; then into a nationally recognized, reader-friendly pollen index.

Rain tends to dampen airborne pollen counts, she said, but can nourish subsequent spikes in flowering. High pollen counts earlier this year — first from trees and then from early to midsummer grasses — seem to have cascaded into fall weeds' final, reproductive hurrah before frost.

Local trees' "flowering pulse" this year almost certainly stemmed from the stresses of 2012's hot, dry summer, and not the current year's weather, University of Vermont professor of plant biology David Barrington wrote in an email to the Burlington Free Press. The profusion of grass pollen has a more recent genesis, theorizes UVM Extension professor Sid Bosworth, whose fields of expertise include pasture, forage and weed management.

Weather conditions prevented timely mowing, he added. "With all the rain in June, we had a lot more land that was cut late this year; therefore, much more heading (flowering) and likely more pollen production," Bosworth wrote in response to an email query. "The rain may have also delayed mowing road sides as well allowing more plants to flower than normal."

This year's early bumper crops of pollen have multiplied the misery for humans unprepared (or untreated) for ragweed's August appearance, said Kent of Timberlane Allergy. "Those people are now more likely to be more reactive" to the region's collective and cumulative cocktail of allergens, he said.

Kent suggested we all might brace for earlier and extended sneeze seasons, given a warming climate. Fallout from that trend was documented in a study published in January 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found that allergy seasons in the northern U.S. and Canada had grown by two to four weeks from 1995 to 2009. Ann Hazelrigg, a plant pathologist at UVM, has first-hand evidence. "This is the first year, ever, that I've had fall allergies," Hazelrigg said. "It's been awful."

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Why allergies aren't just a spring thing

It's normal for people to sneeze their heads off in the spring. It's as much a part of the season as April flowers and May showers, as anyone with allergies will tell you. But it's not just spring. The pollen of spring flowers gives way to grass and tree pollen, and the wet springs and wet summers bring mold. Then comes ragweed and other weeds. And we're not even going to get into dust mites in your carpet or dog dander on the kitchen floor or food allergies.

Yeah, this dealing-with-allergies stuff can be a year-round pain in the septum. Dr. Stanley Fineman is a past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and he has been a practicing allergist for more than 35 years. He finds the whole subject of allergies and allergens fascinating — good for someone who spends many of his days up to his ears in Kleenex.

The wonder lies in the numbers. There are so many allergens out there, and so many people who react differently to allergens. And those same people can react differently to different allergens at different times of their lives and at different times of the year. So something that can make you feel like hacking up a lung at 16 can be completely harmless at 35. And something you had no problem with as a kid can punch you in the nose in later life.

You can move somewhere new, with all sorts of different flora, and think you're breathing in pure, clean Rocky Mountain-type air. Ten years later, it's as if you're breathing in rocks. Fineman says he sees it all the time. The possibilities, the pure permutations, are practically endless.

"I think it's a really exciting field to be in," Fineman said from his office in Marietta, Georgia. "We're doing research on new treatment options all the time." The first trick in getting your allergies under control, you'd think, is avoiding the triggers. So if you're allergic to a certain type of pollen, avoid going outside when that's in the air. But you can see the potential pitfalls there. Who stays inside all the time? Even if you can, who can keep pollen from leaking in? How do you know which pollen sets off the watery eyes and scratchy throat and all that hacking, and how much of it? Maybe what's setting you off isn't the pollen you think it is, anyway. Maybe it's pollen from another plant. Maybe it's a couple different pollens. Maybe it's not even pollen. Maybe it's cats ... or crustaceans.

Fineman explains it this way: We all have a bucketful of potential triggers that we can tolerate. But then comes another allergen from over there, and maybe another from behind the garage, and the one you think you know about happens to be flaring up this week, and pretty soon your bucket is tipping over and spilling all down the front of your face. That's called the "threshold phenomenon," and it's why Fineman suggests that the first step to getting allergies under control isn't avoiding the triggers, but figuring out what those triggers are. To do that right, you need a skin test.

If you've never had a skin test for allergies, it may sound a little 16th century. The test is simple, really: A doctor (or a nurse) will subject your skin to as many as 40 different allergens to see what happens. Different types of pollen, pet dander, food allergens and dust. You'll get a drop of extract of each potential allergen on a tiny portion of your skin — usually a forearm — which is then pricked barely into the skin surface. It's relatively painless.

Then everybody waits to see how your skin reacts, and to what. According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors (or nurses) also test the skin with two other substances: one that makes sure your skin will indeed react to potential allergens (a histamine) and one that makes sure your skin won't react too much, that it isn't too sensitive (either glycerin or saline).

According to the ACAAI, nasal allergies affect as many as 50 million Americans. In the past year, some 17 million adults and almost 7 million children have been diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, known commonly as hay fever. Allergies can't be cured. There is no one magic nose spray that will suddenly make the world's stuffed-up breathe and the puffy-eyed see clearly. But once you know what's setting you off, allergies can be controlled. And that, at least, should bring some relief.

Fight Fall Allergies Before They Start

You heard all about the worst allergy season ever. You know the pollen tsunami swept through and left everyone sneezing and wheezing in its wake. But you want to know why the end of summer is almost here and you’re still miserable. As summer winds down, it’s a good time to start fighting your fall allergies before they hit. As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, ragweed is the culprit. The frilly green plants growing by the side of the road with the golden array of flowers on top are about to explode and release trillions of misery producing pollen grains into the air.

“It’s sneezing, runny nose, soar throat, itchiness everywhere. There have actually been times where I have been bed bound if I didn’t have medication,” Dani Dumitriu said. The American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology said if you suffer from ragweed allergies like Dani, now is the critical time to start considering relief even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms yet.

“People wait too long and they wait until they are very symptomatic, and they start taking medicines, but you are kind of behind the eight ball,” Dr. Beth Corn, Mount Sinai Hospital said. Ragweed season typically starts in August and lasts into September or October. Experts said most people who are allergic to spring plants often react to ragweed. “It turns out with global warming and just climate changes, the allergy season is now longer,” Dr. Corn said. “I actually think they have controlled my symptoms. There is just no point in suffering,” She said.

“Although spring, summer and fall have different sets of allergens to trip up allergy and asthma sufferers, they can cause the same symptoms,” says allergist Janna Tuck, M.D., Fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Those who have multiple triggers, may not be able to distinguish between what’s causing their symptoms. They just know they’re congested, with red eyes and an itchy nose.”

Ragweed is the biggest allergy trigger in the fall. It usually starts releasing pollen with cool nights and warm days in August, and can last into September and October. And the majority of people who are allergic to spring plants are also allergic to ragweed. “The most important reminder is to start taking fall allergy [relief] two weeks or so before symptoms usually begin,” says Dr. Tuck. “Both nasal and eye symptoms associated with ragweed allergies can linger after pollen is no longer in the air.”

What else can you do about fall allergy symptoms? The first line of defense is to avoid triggers. After spending time outdoors, shower, change and wash your clothes. Keep windows closed can help reduce exposure, and changing your clothes and rinsing off when you come inside can help get rid of pollen. If you do go outside, wear a hat and sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.

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Summer allergens and indoor air quality issues in Texas may be cause of allergic reactions

Many Texans associate allergies with spring, but allergies can be a problem for people any month of the year and the summer season is no exception. Summer allergies can be caused by seasonal outdoor culprits or due to the presence of indoor allergens. Two of the most common causes of summer allergies are due to the presence of pollen and mold. Depending on where a person lives in Texas, they will be exposed to a variety of different pollens.  Generally speaking, trees pollinate during the spring, but grasses and weeds can still cause pollen allergies throughout the summer months.  Elevated levels of airborne mold spores are also a common occurrence during the summer months.  Warm and moist conditions can be conducive for elevated mold spore counts which can be an issue for people working or enjoying the outdoors. 

“These same spores can also make their way indoors through open windows, doors, HVAC system air intakes, and even on people’s clothes, hair, and on their pets,” said Hollis L. Horner, President, Indoor Environmental Consultants, Inc.  “People that are allergic to mold should inspect their home, school, or work environment for any signs of its presence or moisture damage.  Mold can grow quickly on many materials used to build and furnish both residential and commercial properties when temperatures are warm and moisture is present.  In fact, any part of a building that has suffered water damage or elevated humidity levels is a likely source of indoor mold.  Even mold growing in a crawl space, basement, attic, or in a wall cavity, can cause indoor air quality problems. Dust mites are another common indoor allergen during the summer months.  Similar to mold, these tiny creatures thrive during this time of year with its warm and humid conditions.

While some turn to the same over the counter medication to get them through the season, consumers are increasingly looking to natural solutions to either compliment and boost the effects of their daily regimen of medication, or to replace that medication altogether. Natural solutions are proving effective as they get to the root of allergy symptoms, or just address the allergies in new, more holistic ways to great success. Lexi Hagenson, a Chicago-based licensed acupuncturist and certified herbalist, has several recommendations for fighting back against allergies, the natural way.

  1. Neti Pot: First, she recommends the use of a Neti Pot, which can be found in most health food stores. Just follow the directions on the package. "It's the most effective way to remove pollen, dust, environmental irritants and mucus from your sinuses, without causing dryness or rebound congestion often experienced from pharmaceutical decongestants." While it's not the most pleasant experience, nasal irrigation like with a Neti Pot soothes and protects nasal passages, something most allergy sufferers desperately need.
  2. Acupuncture: Second, she recommends weekly acupuncture treatments for a month or two. "This 3,000-year-old practice can remarkably improve quality of life for allergy sufferers, even those who don't see results from conventional anti-allergy medications," says Hagenson. Numerous scientific studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for addressing all manner of maladies, even if how it works isn't immediately clear to Western physicians. But adds Hagenson, "acupuncture works both locally by [alleviating] head, neck and facial symptoms, and throughout the body by promoting healthy circulation and decreasing areas of hypersensitivity and stagnation."
  3. Rootology: Breathe Free: Finally, and perhaps most rapid-acting, Hagenson recommends the use of formulas based on Chinese Herbology, such as Rootology: Breathe Free. Not as well known in the U.S., Chinese Herbology is different than other natural allergy remedies, such as Homeopathy, Stinging Nettles, Quercetin, or herbal tinctures, because it starts working immediately, in about 20 minutes, on the same biological systems as Sudafed, but more gently and effectively. While Chinese formulas can vary, even when addressing the same ailment, Rootology's Breathe Free formula is made of 13 concentrated herbal extracts, each with specific functions as detailed on their website. Of the two most prevalent ingredients, Hagenson says, "xanthium fruit and magnolia flower are two extremely effective herbs for alleviating nasal symptoms like profuse nasal discharge and itchiness." She continues, "when taken regularly for a period of time, Rootology can actually help the sinus passageways work more efficiently." To those who may be skeptical, especially if they're not familiar with the herbs, Hagenson offers, "just give it a try! If after two or three doses you feel no change you can always quit with no harm done, especially with the thirty day guarantee. But I highly doubt there won't be a noticeable difference."

Dr. Joan Lehach, MD, a highly regarded allergist in New York City agrees. "I have been practicing Allergy and Clinical Immunology for over 25 years and I am really excited to recommend Rootology, a new all-natural product that really works. It immediately alleviates sneezing, nasal itch, congestion and rhinorrhea (runny nose) without side-effects. Rootology is first line in my practice." With these tips, hopefully you'll find your way through the fall season, especially the natural way.

You can find more information about Rootology: Breathe Free, including expert and customer testimonials and a description of exactly how it works at

The Best Natural Allergy Cures and Remedies

Summer brings us warmer weather and longer days while the fall brings the changing of leaves and crisp air. Whether you’re getting ready for your outdoor track season or are going to watch a football game, you’re bound to be outside bustling around from dusk til dawn. And while you may be welcoming the warmer and longer days from a long dull winter, the spring is can be a time of discomfort and annoyance for people with seasonal allergies. As the season changes from winter to spring, thousands of little tufts of pollen begin to float around through the sky with such beauty, until you are rendered immobilized by a sneezing attack. First sneeze. Second sneeze. Third sneeze. Fourth sneeze. Minutes later, when you finally regain your composure, your nose is now stuffy and eyes itchy and watery in no time all set upon by small white pollen.

So to those who suffer from seasonal allergies spring and fall can be a beacon of doom and congestion, so much of a nuisance that those afflicted are forced to confinement inside potentially hot and muggy homes. But fret no longer my fellow congested friends, for there are some natural ways in which you can help quell or prevent the extremity of your allergies. Thankfully the ways listed in this article are some viable alternatives to over the counter medicine which is beneficial if you personally don’t agree with medicine or if you just ran out of Mucinex.

Neti pots. While this ceramic pot may seem exotic with the same curvatures you may expect a genie in a lamp to have, Neti pots are becoming far more mainstream and are seeing far more use. The purpose of this decorative pot is quite simple. Alleviate stuffy noses by loosening mucus and by cleaning out your nostrils thus forth eliminating strains of allergens (such as pollen) that may be residing in your nose.

Using the Neti pot is quite an easy task. First fill the pot with a mixture of salt and warm water. You can either make your own mixture or purchase a pre measured mixture. Next tilt your head to one side and pour the salted solution into one nostril until it flows out into the other nostril then alternate sides. Repeat this process until you are content. Be sure to use boiled or distilled water and NOT tap water as the tap water can introduce potentially dangerous organisms into your body.

You can purchase one of the nasal irrigators from local stores such as Target or online from Amazon. The price does vary but tends to converge towards the $10 mark making it an affordable solution to congested nostrils come spring time.

Showering. Who doesn’t love a nice long hot shower. While you may be thinking “Why would I take a hot shower in thebest-natural-allergy-cures-steam-shower spring”, hot showers can also alleviate congested nostrils without having to purchase any other instrument like the Neti pot: making allergy relief far more accessible throughout the day and throughout spring. The steam that arises from a hot shower miraculously opens your nasal passage offering relief even if it may be temporary.

Another benefit that showers offer to help repel and quell seasonal allergies is the cleanliness that comes with taking a shower. Let’s say you were outside throwing a ball around or what have you and you have dirt smeared up and down your legs. Naturally, you’d go and take a shower to wipe of the dirt and grime. Not only are you cleaning the dirt off your body, but you are also cleaning off any allergens from your skin and hair thus preventing the allergens from spreading throughout your clothes and house.

Getting hot and steamy. While the shower does offer steam that clears your nasal passage, it is fairly understandable to have no desire to constantly shower to clear your nose. So skip the full body shower and generate up some steam to inhale. Inhaling steam can clear the nasal passage and moisten dry nasal cavities just as well as a nice hot shower.

The easiest method is to just grab a bowl from the cabinet, boil up some water and pour it on in. Grab a small towel to drape over your head to create a tent for the steam to stay in, kind of like a sauna for your head. However, be wary not to put your face too close to the water as you may scald your skin and face burns if your face actually touches the water. If you’re someone who finds themselves with a congested nose quite often in the spring time, this method is far more appealing, reasonable, and accessible than taking a shower every hour.

Warm water and relaxation. Congested noses are one of the most common discomforts brought upon from springtime allergies, but is not the only one that people struggle with. Many people including myself suffer from itchy eyes. And if you fall to the urge to rub your eyes for some relief to the sometimes unbearable itch that persists in your eyes, you are rubbing allergens that may be on your hand directly onto or around your eyes: this only makes the itching sensation worse. So how do you stop this annoyance brought forth from springtime allergies: a warm washcloth and some relaxation.

Much like how the steam helped open your nasal passage, the warmth of the wet washcloth on your closed eyelids helps quell the itching sensation. Not only does it offer relief, but it is readily available to just about everyone who is sitting at home on a spring day where the pollen count is exceedingly large. Just fill up a bowl with some boiled or distilled water (to prevent dangerous organisms that can be found in tap water), soak the washcloth, and place upon your shut eyes and turn on some tunes and relax. The warmth of the water helps quell the itching sensation as well as the distraction of music shifts your focus to the sound rather than the itchy feeling.
Spicy foods

This method is more based upon personal preference and differs from person to person. Eating spicy foods such as chili peppers, wasabi, and fresh garlic can kickstart the water works and cause your eyes to tear up and open your nasal passage. While there isn’t any substantial evidence regarding this method of relief, it may still be worth trying if you’re desperate for relief.

Friendly tips and reminders. When you’re outside during the season that provokes your allergies, you want to play it safe. I don’t mean hiding out in your house to prevent the allergens that lurk about in our world, but rather just some simple common sense. Periodically wash your hands whenever your can. By cleaning your hands with either soap and water or hand sanitizer, you eliminate any allergens that are on your hands thus preventing the spread of allergens throughout your home. And that way if you for some reason must rub your eye, you aren’t adding more allergens to the existing problem.

When using the steam methods, be sure to be safe around the water. This may seem like drivel told to children but accidents can happen and you want to insure your safety. Nothings worse than having a congested nose and 1st or 2nd degree burns across your back or face.

Next time spring or fall rolls around, you allergy prone individuals need not worry about the symptoms you would normally have to endure through as you now have a handful of simple alternatives that can be done at home. With a solution to the major symptoms of seasonal allergies revealed, you can now go through and live your life and enjoy the weather with friends, family, and loved ones.

How To Survive a Summer Cold


It's glorious summer – but that insidious bug responsible for your runny nose and wheezing cough isn't showing any sign of going on vacation.

According to doctors, summer colds can yield many questions from patients: If I have an ordinary cold, why do I feel worse when it's warm out? Are my persistent symptoms really just seasonal allergies in disguise? Is there any truth to the advice that I should "sweat out" a summer cold – or pop a zinc-infused lozenge – if I want to get well in a hurry? Should I skip a friend's barbecue if I've come down with a case of the sniffles?

Here's what you need to know about summer colds, along with how they are – and aren't – different from their cold-weather counterparts. According to Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University Hospital, individuals are infected with different viruses during the summer months than they are during the winter season.

"We lump a whole series of viruses under the one umbrella of 'common cold,'" Wolfe says. "But in fact, there are many different viruses that cause colds. And each virus has a different seasonality." During the winter, the main culprits behind your sneezing and coughing are rhinoviruses. But during the summer, enteroviruses rear their ugly head. Along with the usual coughing, congestion and fever, enteroviruses are associated with a host of other nasty symptoms – diarrhea, sore throat, rashes and body aches, to name a few. And, Wolfe says, enteroviruses can last longer than other viruses – meaning it might take you a little longer than normal to feel 100 percent again if you're infected.

However, there's also a mental component to summer colds, says Ronald Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff in Wales. "We feel a summer cold is worse than a winter cold, as we do not expect to suffer from what most view as a winter ailment when it is sunny and warm in the summer," he says. "So there is a psychological aspect to the perceived severity of the cold and its impact on our lifestyle."

Do I Have a Cold, or Do I Have Allergies?

Sneezing, congestion and a runny nose are symptoms that plague individuals with summer allergies – and summer colds. How can you tell the difference? "A viral infection is going to give you a fever, which you're not going to get with allergies," says Dr. Andrew Murphy, an allergist who practices in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. "The other distinguishing factor is that you feel bad with a cold. Your muscles ache, you feel lousy."

Also, Murphy adds, summer colds have a definite life span – one to two weeks – whereas allergies can stick around for weeks at a time. Other distinguishing factors? "Itchy, red eyes tend to be associated more with allergies," says Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Also, "allergies tend to give you more clear drainage from your nose; colds tend to give you more yellow or greenish type of a drainage."

Are There Summer-Specific Factors That Might Be Making My Cold Worse?

First of all, you probably aren't getting the rest and rejuvenation you need to recover from your cold, Glatt says. If you aren't staying inside when you have a cold, chances are your co-workers aren't, either. If multiple people are going to work sick, there's a higher likelihood that a bug will circulate through the office. Plus, the cranked-up air conditioning might make you more susceptible to catching a cold because it constricts the blood vessels in the nose and throat.

What are Some Ways to Get Over a Summer Cold?

Contrary to popular opinion, research shows that loading up on vitamin C won't help you kick a cold, Glatt says. Antibiotics are a no-no for viral infections. And even though others might advise you to "sweat out" a cold through vigorous exercise, there's no scientific evidence to support that this works. (In fact, vigorous exercise might cause more harm than good if you're still weak from an infection.) In recent years, Wolfe says, zinc has been touted as an effective cold treatment. However, he says, zinc probably isn't as effective for enteroviruses as it is for rhinoviruses – meaning if you have a summer cold, those zinc-infused lozenges, syrups or nasal sprays probably won't make a difference.

At the end of the day, experts say all you can do is let a summer cold run its course. Get plenty of rest. Stay hydrated. Use over-the-counter pain relievers, cough drops, nasal sprays and cough syrups to alleviate your symptoms. Make sure to wash your hands well; the enterovirus is transmitted through both coughing and sneezing and the fecal-to-oral route, meaning you can get it by touching an infected surface or door handle.

And even though it's tempting to ignore your symptoms and head outdoors, stay inside. "If you're sick, you really shouldn't be around people," Glatt says. "In the summer, you don't want to miss out on the fun. But if everybody's getting together to go out for dinner and you think, 'Oh, I'll go out, it won't be so bad,' you are probably infecting everybody at the table and everything around you."

*Read the original article via U.S. News.

Survive Summer With These 5 Herbal Remedies

Hit the gym? Check. Exfoliate all those newly-exposed limbs? Check. Sunscreen? Absolutely. Summer preparation and protection is in full swing, and along with all the usual suspects, there are tons of herbal remedies—for hay fever, sunburn, over-taxed livers, and more.  We spoke to the renown medical herbalists, Daniela Turley, MCPP, AHG for the rundown on summer herbs.

Local Honey for Hay Fever. In the summer, grass pollen can make enjoying the warm weather miserable and popping hay fever pills can have side effects. For a natural alternative we suggest eating a teaspoon of local honey harvested during the season your hay fever strikes. I also recommend taking quercetin combined with vitamin C, which acts as a natural antihistamine. The dose varies, but 500mg three times a day is effective for most people. Drinking nettle tea throughout the day will also help, as it calms the histamine response and is packed with minerals.

Licorice and Curcumin (from Turmeric) for Hives. Hives are an unpleasant reaction to all that sweat and heat. As above, taking 500mg of quercetin three times a day and drinking nettle tea can help assuage the itching. A topical cream with licorice can have an anti-inflammatory, steroid-like effect. Internal licorice can also have the same calming effects. The herb of the moment, turmeric, contains curcumin, which is very anti-inflammatory and reduces allergic response. I suggest getting a formula with at least 50mg of curcumin with piperidine to aid absorption. You may also want to look into reducing foods that trigger histamine release. They include (among many more): beer and wine, mackerel, processed meats, mushrooms, and dried fruits.

Tomatoes, Spinach for Extra Sun Protection. Help your tan along and protect your skin at the same time! Of course, the best protection for your skin is to stay out of the sun, but lets face it, we all get more sun exposure over the summer. Certain nutrients in foods and herbs help protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Beta carotene and lutein found in high levels in spinach and calendula (marigold) help protect the skin from UV damage. I add calendula petals to my Fresh Faced Skin Tea to support this function. You could try switching the kale in salads and juices to spinach over the summer months. Also, it’s a good idea to eat more tomatoes—not only are they at their most delicious in the summer, but research conducted at the University of Nottingham has seen tomatoes increasing the skin’s natural sun protection and producing a tan-like glow. The Vitamin E they contain protects the skin from photo-aging and the lycopene and carotene speeds up the tanning process giving the skin a natural glow that people perceived as more attractive than a regular suntan while also protecting skin further. Gazpacho anyone?

Apple Cider Vinegar, Rose Hip Seed Oil for All-Over Rejuvenation. Get your skin ready for the beach the natural way. I find one of the best natural tips for healthy summer skin is apple cider vinegar. I suggest adding 1 gram of l-ascorbic acid to 100 ml of vinegar (that’s vitamin C to you and I). Keep in the shower and splash all over skin after you finishing the showering. You will be amazing about how quickly your skin will seem softer due to the acid mantel being maintained as well as the benefits from vitamin C. Finish off with your favorite skin oil, I love rosehip seed oil. If that all seems a little too home-spun, you can try Derma-Lac by Environ, which gives very similar results.

Milk Thistle for Liver Repair. Love your liver. Tis the season for Bellinis on the beach and Tom Collins on the terrace, and if you’re not careful your body will start complaining about it. Taking a liver supporting herb is not only a good idea to protect your most metabolically active organ, but the bitter quality of most liver herbs also has an energetically cooling quality on the body. I suggest a good quality extract of milk thistle which contains at least 200mg of silymarin which, as well as being an antioxidant, helps to stabilize liver cell membranes and boosts liver levels of glutathione which protects liver cells from damage.

*Learn more about Daniela Turley MCPP here.

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