Allergy Causes and Natural Allergy Remedies

Learn more about allergy causes — from mold and pollen to cockroaches and pet dander — and natural allergy remedies to relieve and prevent allergic reactions.

| April/May 2010

Ever know a child who sustained a minor scrape and screamed bloody murder? Our immune systems similarly overreact to hay fever. When germs invade, the body’s defenses attack them. But with allergies, the immune system furiously attacks often harmless substances, among them: pollen, pet dander, microscopic bugs, and dust mites. Seasonal allergies such as hay fever are not medically serious, but they are uncomfortable or even maddening — just ask the nation’s 35 million allergy sufferers.

The first step to controlling allergies is to avoid the allergy causes that are your personal triggers. To identify yours, consult an allergist-immunologist for testing. Then, protect yourself from them like the plague they are. Finally, look into conventional and natural allergy remedies as outlined below.

Pollen Allergies

Trees and grasses release pollen from early spring through midsummer. Weed pollens fly from late summer into autumn.

  • Pollen counts are highest from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., so schedule outdoor activities for later in the day.
  • Wind spreads pollen. Try to stay indoors on windy days.
  • Use air conditioning. It filters pollens (and mold spores), especially when set on “recirculate.” Service air conditioners and change filters regularly to assure good filtration.
  • Consider investing in a high-efficiency particulate accumulating (HEPA) air filter. About the size of window fans, portable HEPA filters are available from medical supply stores and health catalogs.
  • Schedule vacations to avoid high pollen counts at home. Consider a cruise far from trees, grasses and weeds.

Pet Dander

“Dander is not hair,” says University of Virginia immunologist Andrew Murphy, M.D. “Short-haired animals are as allergenic as long-hairs.” Dander is a class of proteins in pet saliva and urine, and on skin cells. Dander is easily airborne. Cats produce more than dogs, so they’re more allergenic. To avoid pet allergies:

  • Goodbye, pets? If you find your pet a new home, it takes six months for dander to disappear. To hasten relief, have your home, especially your carpets, professionally cleaned.
  • If you can’t bear to part with your pet, keep your bedroom pet-free.
  • Bathe your pet weekly. Better yet, have someone else do it.
  • Upholstered furniture and carpets collect dander. Eliminate them. If you can’t live without carpet, use short-pile rugs.
  • Vacuum rugs and upholstery frequently. If you can’t find a non-allergy sufferer to do these tasks, wear a dust mask.
  • Use vacuums and portable air cleaners that have HEPA filters.

Dust Mite Allergies

We constantly shed tiny flecks of skin. Dust mites eat them. Add some humidity, and you get hordes of these microscopic bugs. At 75 degrees Fahrenheit with relative humidity at 70 percent, the typical home contains 1,000 dust mites per gram of household dust. The particles seen in a shaft of sunlight are dead mites and their waste. Mites live in mattresses, pillows, carpets, bedding, upholstery, and even stuffed animals. To avoid them, follow the tips below.

  • Encase your mattress and pillow in a plastic, mite-proof cover.
  • Wash your bed linens, blankets, and stuffed animals weekly in hot water (130 degrees).
  • Dehumidify. Dust mites love dampness, so keep your home dry. Spanish immunologists collected dust samples from 10 homes, and those with dehumidifiers had the fewest mites.
  • Remove carpets and upholstered furniture, especially from your bedroom.
  • Install a HEPA filter. Note: Ask an HVAC professional before installing a HEPA filter on your furnace. They aren’t suitable for all models. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Cockroach Allergies

Certain proteins in cockroach feces and saliva can cause allergic reactions in some people. Roaches burrow into cracks. Watch to see where they come from and go.

4/28/2010 7:44:49 AM

I was watching the news on TV a few months ago and a brief segment suggested that eating local honey would reduce allergies to tree pollen. Although I am not allergic to tree pollen, I like honey and started putting a tablespoon in my breakfast tea. I've been drinking it for a few months now and noticed that I am no longer allergic to Poison Ivy. It used to be that if I even walked by a poison ivy plant I seemed to break out into a rash. Now I am pulling it out by the handfuls from various parts of my yard and only have two tiny spots on my right hand. I don't even need to wash my hands after yanking poison ivy out. I realize this is not scientific proof but not being itchy is great! I do attribute it to the morning tablespoon of honey.

4/13/2010 9:20:57 AM

This article has great advice for the most part but PLEASE be very careful using herbs! I tried Stinging Nettle a few years ago. 1 capsule worked great, but tried it again the next day and almost died! Had to be rushed to the hospital and took a couple days before I could breathe on my own again. Many allergy suffers will be allergic to many herbs. Try them individually first, in moderation and make sure someone is around and knows what you are trying--your very life may depend on it!

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