This lifestyle-based approach finds him paying close attention not only to his sniffles and surroundings, but also to the foods he eats, his stress level, the amount of rest he gets and his exercise program. Allergies are an inflammatory process, he says, and he's noticed that a wide range of factors -- not just grass pollen flying through the air -- might prompt his immune system to overreact and trigger an inflammatory response.
Through trial and error he's discovered that some foods, in his case wheat and milk, seem to set off his symptoms a bit and make him feel more congested. So he tries to eat a mostly plant-based diet, or foods that seem to minimize inflammation. And if he's not dealing well with the stress in his life, he's noticed his symptoms seem more bothersome.
What he does for treatment: When his pollen allergy flares up, he takes a homeopathic remedy specially formulated for allergies. This liquid tincture contains extremely dilute concentrations of substances used in homeopathic medicine including Apis mellifica (derived from the honeybee), Nux vomica (which comes from an Asian tree), and Allium sativum (garlic). He'll also use an air purifier in his home to trap dust mites and mold spores. "Many pollen people are also sensitive to dust and dust mites," Monti said.
His bottom line: By being in a better physiological state and keeping his body strong when the season approaches, Monti says he likes to think that he has laid the groundwork to make his allergies more bearable. "There's not a tremendous amount of research that a lifestyle program helps seasonal allergies, but it's definitely helped me," he said.
The doctor: Roberta Lee, medical director for the Continuum Center for Health and Healing in New York City
The culprit: Blooming trees in spring
What she does for prevention: To head off sneezing, congestion and itchy eyes, Lee takes quercetin, a bioflavonoid compound typically found in foods such as apple skins and red onion, and also sold as a supplement. She starts taking 500 milligrams of quercetin twice a day a month before her allergy season begins and continues the preventive remedy throughout the season. This natural product helps stabilizes mast cells, which can release histamines, the chemicals known to trigger an allergic reaction.
What she does for treatment: When her eyes start to itch, Lee places homeopathic eye drops in her irritated peepers. If her nose is blocked, she does a "nasal wash" to eliminate the allergens from being absorbed into her respiratory system. She uses a neti pot to rinse her nose, and typically does this cleansing practice in the morning. She places a pinch of salt into warm boiled water that has been cooled, and adds a dash of baking soda (which takes some of the sting out of saline.)
And when Lee is having symptoms she'll also take the herb stinging nettle, a remedy used for hay fever. She may take a 300-milligram capsule of the freeze-dried extract three to seven times a day. Or she may seek out acupuncture. This ancient needling technique offers her almost instantaneous relief while the herbs tend to take some time to work.
Her bottom line: Antihistamines make her fall asleep and these alternative treatments are less sedating, more natural and provide her -- and her patients -- with much relief.