How to Handle Allergies | Reader's Digest

How to Handle Allergies

Over 36 million Americans suffer from nasal allergies. Here are four expert solutions.

By Michael F. Roizen | MD from Reader's Digest | March 2007

The Allergist. The news is good. In the past, antihistamines made people drowsy, but newer ones (loratadine, fexofenadine and cetirizine) are much less likely to. Inhaled nasal steroids and antihistamines can help. So can OTC decongestant nasal sprays, but don’t use them for more than a few days, or you could make the problem worse. Allergy shots can prevent symptoms and reduce the need for medication.

– Ira Finegold, MD, Past President, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

The Nutritionist. Variety, balance and moderation are the hallmarks of a healthy diet, so eat nutritious, colorful foods (blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli). Some allergy drugs are dehydrating, so be sure to get enough fluids. If you’re stuffed up, try spicy foods (hot peppers, wasabi, horseradish), which can help open up nasal passages.

– Carolyn O’Neil, RD, Atlanta, Georgia, Coauthor of The Dish: On Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!

The Mind/Body Expert. Laughter may be the best medicine (as if we didn’t know!). Joyful, not dark, humor optimizes the immune system. And laughing relieves stress, which can worsen allergies, so it may also ease your symptoms. But, as with exercise, you must do it regularly to get the benefit. Try to laugh three to four times a week for 20 to 40 minutes, minimum.

– Lee Berk, DRPH, Associate Professor, Health Promotion and Education, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, California

The Integrative Medicine Specialist. Eat more fruits, vegetables and omega-3s (salmon, mackerel, flaxseed, walnuts) to help modulate your immune system. The herb butterbur and the bioflavonoid quercetin are thought to work like antihistamines, but check with your doctor first. And the more time you spend inside, especially when pollen levels are high, the better you’ll feel.

– Steven C. Halbert, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bottom Line
A balanced immune system not only protects against the flu but also minimizes overreaction to allergies. Your stay-healthy toolbox should include physical activity and strong social networks to help manage the daily stress that wears you down. Why not take a friend on a walk to talk out a nagging problem?

See also: 6 Cities to Avoid This Allergy Season