Chronobiology and Allergies: Timing is Everything!

woman-sneezingThe field of chronobiology, the science of body timing, is not only fascinating but also has some very practical applications for allergy sufferers. Our bodies produce thousands of chemicals and hormones to regulate our body and immune system in response to our environment. We know that sunshine and daylight regulate our melatonin and Vitamin D levels, which in turn affect many other critical components of our immune system. The allergies are especially affected by chronobiology because the immune system is affected by pollen, which in turn affects the allergic response.

Let’s get specific: Tree pollens are hitting peak levels and grass pollen will soon follow. Pollen levels tend to peak around 11am – 2pm, after which they subside through the evening. Our adrenal system, the gland that sits on top of your kidneys, produces cortisol, which is a hormone that affects metabolism and the immune system. The best way to use allergy medications is to time them so they are working optimally with your immune system to blunt the effects of pollen when they are at their height. I typically recommend taking an antihistamine such as Claritin, Allegra or Zyrtec, the night before. These are long-acting antihistamines, unlike Benadryl which is short-acting, and these medications will have saturated the maximal amount of cells by midday the following morning. The same is true for eye drops, such as Pataday or Elestat – both long-acting.

On the other hand, if you need immediate relief from sneezing and congestion I would use a nasal cortisone spray such as Flonase, Nasonex or Rhinocort. These sprays mainly work locally in the nose. Because cortisol peaks in our bodies in the early morning, I would recommend using these sprays in the early morning. They are fast-acting and should provide protection within 1 hour and it’s good to coordinate the cortisone dosing with our bodies natural cortisol production. This is especially true if your allergies are very severe and your doctor determines you need oral cortisone to control nasal and sinus pain or asthma.

A few other interesting facts regarding “the rhythm of life”: Your brain is most alert around 10 a.m. to get all those great ideas flowing and your muscle and cardiovascular system are at their peak around 5 p.m., the optimal time for you to work-out.

The best way to avoid your springtime allergies in the future is to speak to your doctor about a prevention program, either through medications or immunotherapy. The exciting part about immunotherapy is that in our office we can do it with under-the-tongue allergy drops to build up protective antibodies to minimize or eliminate allergy symptoms. But again- timing is everything! You have to start several months ahead of time, otherwise you miss the boat again!

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