It is estimated that 20-25% of Canadians suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis) due to environmental allergies. Those who experience allergies know that the sneezing, sniffling, and itchy eyes, throat, nose and ears can dramatically affect their quality of life. Not only do these symptoms impact energy and productivity during the day, they can also impact your quality of sleep at night. Environmental allergies can also worsen asthma symptoms or contribute to inflammation or infection of the sinuses.
Allergy symptoms occur when an allergen, like pollen, enters the body through the nose, ears, eyes or mouth. For those individuals who are predisposed to allergies, the immune system will respond by producing IgE mediated antibodies which trigger mast cells to produce a chemical called histamine. Histamine triggers inflammation of the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, ears and throat, and causes the classic symptoms of hay fever.
Hay Fever Symptoms
- Watery, itchy red eyes
- Runny nose and/or nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, and ears, and throat
- Postnasal drip
- Swollen, dark coloured skin under the eyes (allergic shiners)
BC Allergy Seasons
- Tree pollen: February to June
- Grass pollen: May to August
- Weed pollen: August to November
- Dust, mold, cat and dog dander: Year-round
Allergy Testing & Treatment
At Juniper Family Health, our naturopathic physicians offer scratch testing and blood testing for common environmental allergies. Scratch testing is usually the method of choice because it is a quick and easy test that can be done in-office. A small amount of allergen solution is placed on the forearm, and the skin is gently scratched with a sterile needle in this area. If you are reactive to the allergen the skin will redden and swell, and a small hive will form. In cases of chronic inflammatory skin disease (where a clear patch of skin cannot be found), or in people who are prone to severe anaphylaxis, a blood test is the preferred method.
Once your allergies are identified, our naturopathic physicians will offer a customized natural treatment plan tailored specifically for you. Common treatments for allergies include dietary interventions, vitamin therapy, herbal medicine, and sublingual immunotherapy.
What is Sublingual Immunotherapy?
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is an injection-free natural treatment that addresses the underlying cause of environmental allergies. The therapy involves exposing a patient to small doses of an allergen(s) which is taken under the tongue (sublingually). This small exposure helps to re-train the immune system to become less reactive, a process called desensitization. The therapy can be used to treat hay fever and asthma in adults and children over 3 years of age.
Sublingual immunotherapy has endorsement from the World Health Organization, the World Allergy Organization, and the Cochrane Collaborations. Research has shown that sublingual immunotherapy is both safe and effective, and when compared to conventional allergy shots, is less expensive, more convenient, and requires fewer office visits.