For Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, Dr. Steven Lamm, a medical expert on The View, and practicing internist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine, talked to HealthCentral about the ABCs of allergies, including avoidance, natural remedies and the future of treatment. Watch our Skype interview for even more allergy expertise from Dr. Lamm.
HC: What are some of the common allergens this time of year?
Dr. Lamm: We always think of allergens in terms of indoor and outdoor allergens, and outdoor allergens during the spring, summer and fall are primarily trees, grasses and weeds. Those would be the primary reasons that most people are suffering during those spring, summer and fall seasons.
HC: Have you noticed that this allergy season has been worse/earlier this year?
Dr. Lamm: I think that with the warmer winter there has been an earlier season. There are people who would generally wait until May to start to suffer, who started suffering at the end of March or beginning of April. So it appears as though it’s going to be a more extended, prolonged season. And depending on the climactic situation in each state, will determine how badly you’re going to suffer. If you have a lot of rain, then you have sun and wind that blows all these pollens around you’re going to start to have some more reactivity. So, the answer is yes, there has been, it’s earlier and it appears to be a bit more severe.
HC: Can you give us some tips on how to avoid allergy triggers?
Dr. Lamm: For some, their threshold is so low…any minimal exposure in the air is going to be a problem for them, but for some it really only affects them when the counts are high. So, it just makes sense that you would wear a hat, for example, or wear sunglasses, or try to minimize your exposure to these pollens during those days that you really have a really high count.
During some of these high pollen days you’re better off being indoors or being in a car with the windows rolled up, the air conditioning on. When you get home you want to take off your clothing and take a shower.
What natural or traditional treatments do you recommend?
Dr. Lamm: There are some nasal sprays that I think can be very helpful. There are pharmaceutical ones, but I have become increasingly impressed with some of the natural nasal sprays, especially the ones that come from the Dead Sea salt. And, what they basically do is just irrigate the nasal passages, washing some of the pollens away, and the Dead Sea salts just happen to also have some anti-inflammatory activity. Allergy is a form of inflammation, so if you can reduce the inflammatory reaction of the nasal passages you’re better off.
I certainly think we should start out with local care, local nasal irrigation, local nasal sprays. Not of the type that we call basic constrictors, I don’t like those because there is a rebound associated with them.