With longer pollen seasons on the way, practitioners offer advice on allergens


Sniffly, sneezy springtime has arrived in northern Clark County. As allergy sufferers brace for the lengthening pollen season, medical professionals in the region offer advice on how to enjoy the outdoors.

Allergy management has grown increasingly difficult, and the Washington Department of Health expects longer pollen seasons, which will extend the suffering of the allergy-prone.

“Scientists have found that allergy seasons are getting longer and more severe,” according to the Department of Health website. “Compared to 30 years ago, the pollen season is starting 20 days earlier and lasting for almost a month longer. This is mainly because of increasing temperatures from climate change.”

Many people take antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Claritin, to treat allergy symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine. The medications are effective and work rapidly, but can cause drowsiness, dizziness and dry mouth.

Naturopathic physician Jillian Stansbury, owner of Battle Ground Healing Arts proposes that allergy-sensitive individuals take preventative measures to manage their histamine response before relying on antihistamines.

“There are lots of natural things that help, and I think they help best when you start them a month ahead of time,” Stansbury said. “There are some nutritional things that help reduce histamine responses.”

Allergens irritate mucus membranes, such as nasal mucosa and eye conjunctiva. These membranes are composed primarily of fats. Supplementing additional healthy fats, such as fish, primrose or flaxseed oil can reduce allergic inflammation, Stansbury said.

“Everything that reacts to pollens is made of fats,” Stansbury said. “Deficiency in those leads to more allergic reactivity.”

Consuming high levels of flavonoids can also reduce allergic reactions, Stansbury said. Flavonoids, found within red or blue fruits and vegetables, have shown promising anti-inflammatory properties that alleviate allergic responses, according to researcher Poliana Guiomar Brasiel’s study “Efficacy of Flavonoids in Allergies” at the National Library of Medicine.

Eating enough flavonoids can be difficult, and supplemental pills with quercetin, rutin and carotenoid are available. Supplements can be taken as soon as mid-February to alleviate allergic reactions during the spring, Stansbury said.

“People can start them as soon as the pollen hits, two pills in the morning or night,” Stansbury said. “They’re pretty safe, gentle substances.”

Bee pollen supplements can also alleviate allergic reactions. A small spoonful of local pollen can help desensitize the consumer to regional vegetation, Stansbury said.

Those already suffering from congestion can try eating eye-watering spicy foods, such as horseradish. Spices can be used to increase mucus production and cleanse the sinuses of allergens, Stansbury said.

“For people who are prone to sinus infections, sometimes a little trick is to keep eating a little bit of horseradish,” Stansbury said. “It’s a wonderful expectorant.”

As well, Mark Chan, allergy and immunology specialist at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, recommends limiting outdoor pollen exposure and staying clean.

“Simple things like closing your windows, changing your clothes when you come in from outdoors and even just showering and washing your hands can help a lot,” Chan said in a March 18 press release.

Allergy-prone individuals should be aware of their local pollen forecast and avoid outdoor exposure during particularly bad days, Stansbury said. Forecast websites such as Northwest Allergy and Asthma Center and AccuWeather provide updated information on allergen levels.

With increasing allergens and longer pollen seasons, the Department of Health expects more people will struggle with allergic reactions. More allergens will increase the likelihood of asthma and other respiratory problems.

To learn more about springtime allergens, and what can be done to mitigate them, visit the Department of Health’s website at doh.wa.gov/ community-and-environment/ climate-and-health/pollen. People should also consult their general practitioner or physician before beginning any new treatment.