Allergy relief: Fact vs. fiction

Posted at 7:17 PM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 13:17:16-04

ABC15 is separating fact from fiction for Arizonans who are coughing, sneezing and itching their way through this pollen-filled spring.

Jason Freshman remembers, even as a schoolchild, how he spent one week every spring home sick with allergies.

"I have found that nothing worked," Freshman said.

"My eyes would be watering," allergy sufferer Eileen Clancy remembered. "They'd be red. I'd be sneezing."

But this year is different for Clancy, who says her symptoms were relieved by ingesting a handful of bee pollen and a spoonful of local honey every morning.

Dr. David Mendelson, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Tempe St. Luke's Hospital and Mountain Vista Medical Center, is skeptical of the power of honey. While it seems plausible that eating honey could desensitize you to the plants the bees collect from, Dr. Mendelson said, the reality is that flowers are not the cause of most of the allergies we have.

Jim Hermann volunteers at Desert Botanical Gardens where he's exposed to plenty of pollen. He says people have suggested he "move" to escape his allergies.

Again, Dr. Mendelson says that probably won't work because you're likely to have allergies in your new home.

“A lot of people from the north have brought all their greenery down there, so we have been exposed to a lot of stuff from around the country," he said.

How about acupuncture?

While the doctor says it’s been used for thousands of years he’s “unaware how that directly affects the immune system.”

Dr. Mendelson laughed off several home remedies we pulled from the internet, including growing facial hair and eating onions and tomatoes.

He suggests other home-based solutions. Using HEPA air filters, showering before bed and a neti pot may ease discomfort.

As for the wide variety of allergy medications, the doctor says to find the one that works best for you and stick with it. If it seems to be less effective this year, there's a reason. It's the pollen count.

"They may take the medication and might have more severe allergies, so it doesn't work as well as when they have the mild reaction," said Dr. Mendelson. "They say, 'Hey! This worked great last year because I didn’t react as bad, and now I am having a horrible reaction.'"

Dr. Mendelson says even people with seasonal allergies may have success with allergy shots. Allergy shots work like a vaccine. Injected amounts of a particular allergen are given to a patient. As the dose is increased over time, the patient develops immunity or a tolerance to the allergen.