The Problem of Histamine

Debunking myths and offering cures for the season
Illustration by Natasha_55 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Pollen, dust mites, pet dander and other allergens can cause allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, which doesn’t require exposure to hay.

In some people, the body’s immune system identifies a harmless substance such as tree pollen as a threat and produces antibodies to combat the allergen.

The body also releases histamine into the bloodstream, causing swelling of the sinuses and eyelids as the body works to block additional allergens, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Part of the body’s defense system, histamine also can trigger sneezing and cause itching, stuffiness and a runny nose, and it can produce symptoms of asthma, experts say.

That’s why doctors recommend second-generation anti-histamines such as Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec for such symptoms.

They’re also available in less-expensive generic forms: fexofenadine, loratadine and cetirizine.

Some Tallahassee residents say they take one of those daily year-round in an effort to hold off allergies.

Other popular treatments include nasal steroid sprays such as Flonase (fluticasone) and Nasacort (triamcinolone) — which some tout as the most effective treatments of all — and an easy do-it-yourself procedure called nasal saline rinse, which involves flushing the nasal passages with warm water and a salt-based mixture.

You can get saline-rinse kits at drug stores such as Walgreens or CVS.

“That has been more like a home remedy that has truly helped,” said Dr. Joseph Soto, an ear, nose and throat physician in Tallahassee.

Some people, often via YouTube videos, claim relief and results from natural remedies such as humidifiers, essential oil diffusers, apple cider vinegar, quercetin, magnesium, probiotics, acupuncture, flaxseed oil, certain herbal teas, Vitamin C in high amounts, and lots of water.

Many also point to the importance of a healthy diet that emphasizes certain foods while avoiding others. Your doctor probably will be unlikely to recommend some of those ideas.

“As a physician, I’m always looking for studies that control for different factors so that you’re not going by just anecdotes,” Soto said.


Honey of a Question

Can local honey really help fight allergies?

We figured you’d ask. Beekeepers, including some in the Big Bend area, not surprisingly seem to keep an open mind about honey as a remedy for pollen allergies. But citing a lack of scientific evidence, even they tend to stop short of declaring it a miracle cure.

“I’m a data scientist. Without the data, I can’t go there,” said Kimberly Jackson, a Tallahassee beekeeper and a Geographic Information Systems manager at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“But everybody has a story. I certainly subscribe to putting it into tea when you have a sore throat.” Said Tony Hogg, owner of Full Moon Honey in Monticello: “I will say that my wife has allergies, and she strongly believes that local honey helps with allergies.”

On its website, the Mayo Clinic answers “probably not” to the question of whether local honey can lessen seasonal allergy symptoms.

It adds that “the idea isn’t so far-fetched, though,” pointing out that “one treatment for allergies is repeated exposure to small amounts of allergens” such as pollen that can be found in honey.

Categories: Health