antihistamine

  1. The worst allergy season ever is here

    Allergy season is here -- and it's here with a vengeance.

    I've had patients who never had allergies before start experiencing them this year for the first time -- and if you've got the sniffles yourself, you already know exactly what they're going through.

    Thanks to a mild winter in most of the country, pollen was out in force earlier than ever -- and new CDC numbers show just how much we're suffering.

    In March, close to 20 percent of people surveyed by the agency reported allergy symptoms. That compares to less than 15 percent in 2010 and 16.5 percent in 2011.

    The numbers were so high the agency said they matched what we normally see this month, in May.

    And in April, the allergy reports were up about 10 percent over the previous year.

    Those numbers confirm what I've seen in my practice, as more people show up with allergies than ever before -- including many who say they've never had so much as a sniffle in the past.

    But let's face reality here. Most people don't even bother telling their doctors about allergies. It's just too easy to go to the store and pick up an over-the-counter antihistamine.

    Plenty of people take them, and some even swear by them. But they're expensive, don't work for everyone, and come with a potential for side effects ranging from dry mouth to drowsiness.

    There are much better ways to beat allergies for good and help you breathe easy all year long. Here at my Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine, for example, we use homeopathic remedies to desensitize people to the pollens causing their symptoms.

    It's so much easier -- not to mention safer -- than allergy shots.

    The homeopathic remedies allium cepa and/or nux vomica can help with the classic hay fever symptoms, such as sneezing and runny nose. For symptoms more in your eyes, I recommend a homeopathic remedy made from the eyebright plant, called euphrasia.

    In addition, butterbur supplements have shown in studies to be as effective as some of the top-selling over-the-counter allergy remedies, but at a fraction of the price.

  2. Poke your sinus pain away

    In my experience, there's almost no such thing as "chronic" sinusitis -- only doctors who don't know how to treat sinus conditions, so their patients never get any lasting relief.

    Next thing you know, the patient is battling the condition for months or even years at a time -- and the sinusitis is labeled "chronic," as experienced by some 30 million Americans in 2010 alone.

    Now, a new study shows that mainstream docs can bring at least a little more relief to their patients if they're willing to send them out for some acupuncture and acupressure.

    Researchers say the 11 long-term sinus patients in the study who got both traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments -- along with some nutritional counseling based on the principles of TCM-- had less nose-blowing, sniffling, and sneezing.

    They also had less of that awful facial pain and pressure that goes hand-in-hand with sinus problems, and enjoyed better concentration, fewer cases of restlessness, and less frustration.

    Put it all together, and you can see why they also reported overall improvements in quality of life, according to the study in the Archives of Otolaryngology.

    But on the other hand, no one was cured, either -- so while I think acupuncture and acupressure are great, and I have an acupuncturist at my clinic, neither one would make my shortlist for treating sinusitis.

    Not when there are ways to actually cure the condition instead.

    One reason mainstream docs never get this one right is because they're too focused on treating the symptoms rather than the cause. They'll prescribe nasal corticosteroid sprays and antihistamines and send the patient on his way.

    But while those drugs might bring some quick short-term relief from the symptoms, they do nothing to correct the actual cause (they also come with side effects, especially with long-term use).

    In many cases, chronic sinusitis is caused by environmental allergens and irritants -- including toxins in the home, tobacco smoke, and mold spores. Other common causes include food allergies and even a fungal infection in the sinus cavity (that last one's a lot more common than you'd think).

    There's no antihistamine or steroid on the planet that can correct any of that, which is why patients who take them never get cured. As a matter of fact, they can increase the fungi in the sinus cavity.

    They get "chronic" sinusitis instead.

    Your own answer will depend on the cause -- and that means you need a doctor who's willing to take the time needed to find it. Odds are, that won't be a mainstream doctor. Seek the care of a holistic doctor instead, especially one experienced in testing for allergies and treating fungal infections.

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