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“You Give Me Fever”


Those of us who are a bit more….(ahem) *mature* in age may remember singer Peggy Lee on TV, crooning “You give me fever” into the microphone.

What actually causes fever? How do we “get” one, and why? Is it dangerous, or can it actually be helpful? (<<That’s a hint!)

In today’s post from The Bridge we’ll discuss the genesis of fever and the role it plays in helping the body fight off illness.

Fever has been discussed in written history for thousands of years. The Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical text written around 1500 B.C., discusses common medical ailments of the time. Many illnesses, including fever, were treated with a combination of herbs, spices, and magical incantations chanted over the patient by priest-physicians. In one section of the translated papyrus text, there’s a description of infection and attendant fever is found.  When a “wound is inflamed…[there is] a concentration of heat; the lips of that wound are reddened and that man is hot in consequence…then you must make cooling substances for him to draw the heat out…leaves of the willow.”[1,2]


(Ancient Egyptian physician treating a patient by instilling hippopotamus dung, which was believed to contain disease fighting particles, into the nostrils of a patient.)

In ancient Roman times, during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, the scholar Aulus Cornelius Celsus described treatment of fever:

“He (the physician) had the patient well covered up to excite at the same time a violent heat and thirst. When the fever began to abate somewhat, he made him drink cold water. If he broke out in a violent sweat, the patient was considered cured.”[3]

(In this painting the patient is wrapped in blankets, and the physician also appears to be practicing “cupping”, an ancient method of treating disease.)


In Japanese and Chinese writings dating from the sixteenth century, the use of thermal hot spring baths to treat all manner of illnesses, including fever, was widespread.[2]


 (a bathhouse attendant greets a customer as another finishes a bath)

During the Middle Ages, blood-letting was a favored cure for fever. The reasoning was that fever is caused by an excess buildup of heat in the blood; therefore, drawing off some of the patient’s blood would remove the source of the fever. The famous “barber pole” with its swirling white and red colors refers not only to the proprietor who would cut hair and shave beards, but also act as blood-letter. There are differing explanations as to what the colors and the pole itself represent; one common description is that the red swirl on the pole represents blood; the white swirl, the tourniquet used to raise veins to the surface of the skin (or the bandages used afterwards), and the pole represents the stick the patient squeezed to help force the flow of blood. [3]


In the 18th and 19th centuries, doctors began treating fevers with anti-pyretic (fever-fighting) medications.  In 1763, the Rev. Edward Stone described his success in treating fifty patients with various “agues” (archaic term used to describe fevers) with extracts of white willow bark [4].  We now know that white willow bark contains salicylic acid, and a component similar to this makes up our modern aspirin.



What does modern medicine tell us about the genesis of fever? When healthy, our bodies maintain a nearly constant temperature of  98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37.0 degrees Celsius). Fever occurs when the normal “set point” of 98.6 degrees is turned upwards by the hypothalamus, the “thermostat” of the brain. Elevations in body temperature normally happen during illnesses like a bacterial or viral infection, but can also happen in heat exhaustion/heat stroke, after vaccinations, an injury, or in inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.  (Fever can even occur with something as simple as overdressing a baby.)

So, what happens in the hypothalamus to cause a fever?  In response to one of the conditions described above, the immune system recognizes a threat to the body and goes on high alert. Let’s say that at daycare your child is exposed to hand-foot-mouth disease by a child infected with it.  Once infection sets in, body chemicals called pyrogens are produced, either by the virus itself or from body tissues invaded by the virus. These pyrogens are carried throughout the body by the circulatory system to the brain, where they enter the hypothalamus.  Although the process is complex, it can be described simply: pyrogens shut off heat-sensing neurons (nerve cells), and turn on cold-sensing neurons.  When the cold-sensing neurons are turned on, temperature sensors in the hypothalamus think that the body is colder than it actually is, so it compensates by raising the body temperature several degrees.

A fever is thought to help defend the body because it stimulates the production of white blood cells which help fight infection.  Also, a higher body temperature can stimulate the development of antibodies designed to help ward off infection. At the same time, having a fever may actually kill bacteria or viruses that can only survive in a narrow temperature range.  So you can see that treating a fever with ibuprofen, tylenol, or aspirin (aspirin shouldn’t used in children) can actually re-set those temperature sensors, thereby telling the immune system to put on the brakes and stop pumping out helpful antibodies and blood cells!

So what should you do, then, if your child gets a fever? Should you treat it or leave it alone?  When is a fever dangerous and when can you safely stay at home?  Note: **If your child is sick, always contact the primary care physician. The information that follows contains general guidelines which do not apply to every situation, and should not be construed as medical advice.**

When You Might Consider Leaving a Fever “Alone”

 The majority of fevers are not dangerous, and as I described above, they can actually aid the body in fighting off illness. When your little one has a mild or low-grade fever (generally considered to be 100.4 to about 101.5 degrees, though sources differ on the range) he/she may be listless or a little sleepy, have that “shiny sick” look in their eyes, may not feel like playing with favorite toys, be “clingy” or not much interested in eating.  You’ll feel their hearts beat a little more quickly than normal, and you’ll see that their breathing rate will be a bit faster in response to the fever. While these are all normal symptoms and generally not a cause for concern, there are measures that you can take to help ease your child’s discomfort.  Assist your child in feeling better by encouraging rest or cuddling. Taking frequent small sips of water, room temperature chamomile tea or sucking on a popsicle is helpful in maintaining hydration. Giving the child a tepid (lukewarm) sponge bath or a cool cloth on the forehead may help aid comfort.  You may consider using Roman chamomile hydrosol, diluted, in a sponge bath or on a cloth for the forehead. Call your doctor’s office to let them know what kind of symptoms your little one is having so they can advise you on a course of treatment.

When You Should Consider Treating a Fever

Should your child complain of severe pain (like a sore throat which makes swallowing difficult, or body aches that make it hard to find a comfortable position), call the doctor’s office. Ask if treating with tylenol or ibuprofen is indicated or if other intervention is necessary.

When You Should Definitely Seek Medical Attention

A high fever (over about 103, though again sources differ), headache, stiff neck, vomiting and/or diarrhea, dry diapers/no tears when crying, or an inability to wake your child means a call to the doctor is in immediate order. If it’s after hours or on the weekend, consider an immediate urgent care/ER visit, and you can always call 911 for help.

Sometimes during a fever, a child will have a febrile seizure.  This is a body convulsion brought on by the fever, most often during the first day the child is sick. Febrile seizures are terrifying for parents to witness, but only in the most extreme cases are they harmful to the child. According to the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke, one in 25 children between the ages of 6 months-5 years will suffer at least one febrile seizure.[5]  Though the exact cause is unknown, several theories have been advanced. One is that the shivering mechanism the body uses to produce and dissipate heat is immature in infants and toddlers. Instead of inducing shivering to dissipate collected heat from the skin, the brain causes a seizure instead. Other scientists postulate that along with the pyrogens released during an illness, the brain also releases protein-based cytokines, which temporarily “scramble” the circuits in the brain, causing a seizure.[6]

First Aid for a Febrile Seizure

The first thing to remember is to try not to panic.  Though I’m an ER nurse who has witnessed countless febrile seizures, when my own daughter had one at 15 months of age, I had to fight to remain calm. Most seizures last about 15-30 seconds, but I guarantee it *feels* much longer than that!

  • Don’t put anything in the child’s mouth. Jaw spasms caused by a seizure are powerful and you can lose a finger if you try to open the mouth to insert something to keep the child’s airway open. Also, the object could break and cause the child to choke.
  • Move furniture out of the way if the child is on the floor so he/she doesn’t get injured by striking anything while seizing. If your child is in bed, place your body by the edge of the bed to make sure he/she doesn’t fall off. Do not hold or restrain the child during the seizure.
  • If you have the presence of mind to do so, look at the clock or try to time the seizure so you can relay this information to the doctor.
  • Once the seizure stops, gently place the child on their side (recovery position) and seek medical attention.


Though fevers are annoying and bothersome, remember that most are harmless and actually help the body fight off infection.  Never hesitate to call the doctor if you are unsure or concerned about your child’s condition. In most cases, lots of TLC, rest, and fluids are all that it will take to get your little one back on track.


We want you to learn as much as you want about essential oils and how to use them safely. If you have any questions, comments or other concerns, you’re welcome to email us at Or come join us on Facebook at Safe Essential Oil Recipes!

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  1. Bryan, PW. The Papyrus Ebers. Geoffrey Bles, London, 1930.
  2. Mackowiak, Philip A. Brief History of Antipyretic Therapy. Oxford Journals, Clinical Infectious Diseases, V.31(5):S154-S156, 2000.
  3. Bierman, William. The History of Fever Therapy in the Treatment of Disease. Bulletin of NY Academic Medicine, V.18(1); 1942.
  4. Medtech website.  Bloodletting is Back! Here’s everything you need to know about this ancient practice.
  5. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Febrile Seizures fact Sheet.
  6. National Health Services (UK) website. Causes of febrile seizures.

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Rash Roundup, Part 2



In last week’s Rash Roundup-Part 1, we took a look at some of the most common viral and bacterial rashes of childhood. This week’s post examines commonly seen fungal and contact rashes in children and adults. Not every existing fungal or contact rash will be discussed, nor will rare or unusual symptoms be mentioned, only the most commonly seen. This blog post is not intended to be a substitute for medical attention from your physician. If you have worrisome or unusual symptoms or if you have a compromised immune system and have a rash, prompt consultation with your doctor is indicated.


Fungal Exanthems (Rashes)

In last week’s post, I mentioned that the medical word for rash is exanthem (plural: exanthems). Fungal exanthems are rashes caused by contact with a fungus in the environment and include athlete’s foot, diaper rash, thrush, and ringworm. Fungal exanthems are most predominant in warm, moist areas of the body.

Athlete’s Foot  (Tinea pedis)      



Athlete’s foot is a foot infection caused by a dermatophyte called tinea, which is a disease causing fungus (plural: fungi).  Fungi are found most often in warm, moist places where people walk barefoot, such as gymnasiums, shared showers in locker rooms, and around swimming pools. The fungi are transferred from those surfaces onto the feet.  If conditions are favorable, such as when feet are enclosed in shoes and socks for long periods, dermatophytes are able to penetrate the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis) and cause infection. This produces the itching, burning, and cracking skin of an athlete’s foot infection.  Treatment of the infection is two-fold; the first and most important treatment is to remove conditions which favor fungal growth.

  •  At home, be barefoot as much as possible
  • Keep toenails short, so fungi have less surface area to live under nails
  • Wear shoes that are made of ventilated mesh or leather. This lets moisture and heat escape better than wearing vinyl or plastic footwear. Try not to wear the same pair of shoes every day in order to allow them to dry and air out more thoroughly. Place shoes out in the sun to dry if possible.
  • Wash and dry feet thoroughly at least once a day, including between the toes. Wear clean white cotton socks to help absorb sweat and change them daily.
  • Wear flip-flop sandals around pools and in shared showers to avoid transferring the fungus or re-infecting yourself.

The second part of treatment includes medications which help kill the dermatophyte fungi. These include creams, powders, and ointments, many of which are available without a doctor’s prescription. Be aware that treatment involves patience and dedication, as it may take weeks of application to produce healing or remission.

Complementary/Alternative remedies*

  • Foot bath, Version 1: place a few tablespoons of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt in a foot bath with warm water and 1/2 cup of apple cider or white vinegar. Soak feet for ten minutes, then dry feet thoroughly. Wash the basin well with hot soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly.
  • Foot bath, Version two: add 1/2 teaspoon (approximately 50 drops) of tea tree oil into a carrier, like an ounce of vodka or milk, in order to emulsify (blend) the oil with the carrier. Then add the essential oil/carrier mixture to a warm water foot bath and soak for 10-15 minutes. Rinse and dry the feet thoroughly. Wash the foot basin well with hot soapy water and dry.
  • Sprinkling shoes with a bit of arrowroot powder or cornstarch may help absorb moisture.
  • Break out the garlic. Yes, garlic!  Roughly chop or slice fresh garlic and put some between your toes before you put your shoes on in the morning. Your coworkers might wonder who brought Italian takeout, but your feet may thank you!
  • Simmer a finger-sized piece of chopped or grated fresh ginger in water on the stove for 20-30 minutes; let cool and strain out the ginger. Store the infused water in a jar in the fridge, and daily pour a tiny bit out of the jar and rub on clean feet; the let feet air dry. Wash hands thoroughly with warm soapy water afterwards.



Diaper Rash



There are a number of causes of diaper rash, including skin chafing, infrequently changed diapers, new foods, allergies, or illness. If the diaper rash is caused by a fungus, it’s most often caused by a yeast called Candida.  The warm, moist diaper area is an ideal place for yeast to grow. Increasing the frequency of diaper changes is the best way to prevent diaper rash. Replace a soiled diaper as soon as possible after a bowel movement (within 10 minutes if possible) and within an hour or two for a wet diaper.  Airing out baby’s bottom is also a great way to reduce yeast growth on the skin. If baby is awake, try to keep him/her on a non-carpeted surface for easy clean-up if there’s an “accident”. If baby is going down for a nap, place a waterproof sheet underneath the linen on the crib or bed to keep the mattress from being soiled.

Despite keeping baby’s bottom clean and dry, sometimes a fungal rash that spreads over the diaper area can cause great discomfort when urine and feces contact irritated skin. Christina has this “naked” salve recipe in another blog post, you can find it here: DIY Salve. Though the recipe contains no essential oils, she mentions that it’s acceptable to add a couple of drops of lavender or German chamomile essential oil to the recipe (at a 0.25% dilution) for extra skin soothing power.


Step 1_ Gather ingredients

Use of unrefined virgin coconut oil during diaper changes is also believed to help promote smooth, healthy skin.

Oral Thrush

Thrush is a fungal rash caused by the Candida species of yeast It normally lives in small amounts in the mouth and other sites in the body, but its numbers are normally kept in check by a healthy immune system. Since infants have an immature immune system, they are more susceptible to developing fungal infections in the mouth. Thrush is characterized by white patches on the tongue, inside of the cheeks, and the throat. It can make nursing painful for both baby and mama, as thrush spreads from baby’s mouth to the breast area. Traditionally, thrush is treated with anti-fungal medications like Nystatin drops for baby and Nystatin cream for the mother’s breast area. There are alternative remedies to treating thrush, including:

  • Dietary changes like reducing or eliminating sugar.  Yeasts feed on sugars, so eliminating them from the diet helps control the yeast population in the body.
  • With your doctor’s advice/guidance, probiotic drops to help control yeast in baby’s mouth may be helpful.
  • Gentian violet is an antiseptic dye which can be painted on mom’s nipples after feedings. If you prefer not to use Nystatin, you can discuss this option with the pediatrician.
  • White vinegar–mix a tablespoon of white vinegar in a cup of water, and dab a bit onto nipples after feeding baby and let dry. Wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Cleanliness is of the utmost importance to prevent spread of the infection. If you bottle feed, make sure that bottles and nipples are sterilized, as well as pacifiers. If you breast feed and are pumping, make sure the cup part that fits over the breast is sterilized after each use.
  • Nursing moms may wish to use either disposable or washable cotton pads in their bras to discourage spread of the yeast to bras and/or clothing. If using washable pads, wash in the hottest water recommended by the product manufacturer and add some plain white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

The use of essential oils for thrush is not recommended.

Ringworm (Tinea corporis)


Ringworm is a common infection which is not caused by worms! A dermatophyte called tinea is the cause of the condition. Ringworm is characterized by small circular reddened or crusty patches and is generally itchy. It can occur anywhere on the body and is most often easily treated by topical applications of antifungal cream, though more serious cases may involve taking medication by mouth. Andrew Weil MD, a well-respected complementary medicine physician, recommends eating a couple of cloves of raw garlic each day while treating ringworm and changing bed sheets daily while the infection is present. Another treatment he suggests is applying (diluted) tea tree oil to affected areas several times a day until the patches are gone. He also advises continuing to apply diluted tea tree oil for two weeks to areas where the patches were present to ensure that the infection is completely gone.

Contact Exanthems (Rashes)

Contact exanthems (rashes) are caused by contact with a substance that irritates your skin. The most common skin irritants are cosmetics (soap, shampoo, makeup, and perfume), metals (like nickel in costume jewelry), plants like poison ivy/oak/sumac, and clothing detergent.

Plant Exanthems (Rashes)


Plant rashes are most often caused by direct contact with a plant’s irritant oil.  Indirect contact with a pet which has the oil on its fur or with an object which has the oil present on its surface (like a rake or hoe) is another way to contract a rash.  A more serious reaction can occur if brush which contains irritant plants is burned, and the irritant oil is released into the air to be inhaled into the respiratory tract. Urushiol oil, the sticky substance secreted by the poison ivy/oak/sumac plant, is highly irritating to skin.  It is possible to come into contact with poison ivy plants and not be affected by the itching, burning, blistering rash it causes. This generally means realizing you’ve come into contact with the plant and having quick access to soap and water.  Showering thoroughly within two hours of contact with soap, water, and lots of skin friction to remove the tenacious oil can often prevent or reduce a poison ivy rash. However, most people don’t realize they’ve been in contact with an irritant plant until it’s too late to stop the reaction, or they have limited access to soap and water, such as when trail camping.  In instances where limited water is available, Tecnu is a product which can be applied to the skin, rubbed in thoroughly, and then wiped off with a cloth.

Treatment is symptomatic, and first focuses on completely removing the irritant oil from skin and clothing by thorough washing or use of a product like Tecnu.  Although it’s commonly believed that rupturing poison ivy blisters spreads the rash, this isn’t true. Blister fluid does not contain urushiol oil.  Common medications designed to ease symptoms include calamine lotion and benadryl for itching. Cool compresses or oatmeal baths may help ease the itching and burning that accompanies the rash. In more serious cases, a doctor may prescribe steroids to take by mouth for several days.

Use of essential oils on poison ivy type rashes is not recommended. Skin which is open and weeping is more susceptible to increased irritation or sensitization if oils are applied.

In the case of suspected contact rash from cosmetics, jewelry, or clothing detergents, stopping use of the product(s) for several weeks is often all that is necessary to clear the rash. It may take some trial and error to discover the culprit; it’s more advisable to stop using one product at a time. If several products are discontinued at once, it may not be possible to figure out which one was causing the rash.


We want you to learn as much as you want about essential oils and how to use them safely. If you have any questions, comments or other concerns you are welcome to email us at or come join us on Facebook at Safe Essential Oil Recipes!

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Rash Roundup, Part 1




**NOTE: This post is an overview of the most common childhood rashes. Not every disease that causes a rash in children is discussed. Also, not every possible consequence/side effect of a disease state is discussed, only the most common symptoms. If your child has a rash that is accompanied by fever, headache, vomiting, lethargy or other worrisome symptoms, a call to the pediatrician or in some cases an ER visit is warranted. Please be aware that the subject of vaccination is a personal one and has passionate opinions on both sides of the aisle.  I will not entertain discussion of the vaccination issue here or in the comments, as that is not the purpose of this post.**


Skin rashes are universal in children as their developing immune systems are challenged by viruses, bacteria, and fungi in the environment. With the exception of contact conditions like poison ivy or a metal allergy, many rashes are a common external manifestation of an internal condition. Part One of this series discusses rashes caused by common viruses and bacteria. Part Two will discuss fungal rashes and those caused by external contact, such as poison ivy or heat rash.

Viral Rashes (Exanthems)

In medical terms, a rash or eruption on the skin is called an exanthem, while the term viral exanthem means that the rash is caused by infection with a virus. Viral exanthems are very common in childhood but can affect adults as well. Five rash-producing illnesses often seen in childhood are discussed below.




Roseola, also known as roseola infantum, is a generally mild illness. Roseola is caused by two viruses from the herpes virus family, though they’re not the same strains that cause oral cold sores or genital herpes. Roseola is most common in children 6 months to 2 years of age and is rarely seen after age four.[1]  The incubation period of roseola (incubation period is defined as the time period from when the infection enters the body until the time symptoms appear) is 1-2 weeks. Roseola is spread by the droplet route when an infected person coughs or sneezes virus-laden particles and usually is transmitted by a healthy-looking person before any symptoms  occur. The abrupt onset of fever is the first symptom to appear; it usually lasts 2-3 days and may be high (102-103); other symptoms during this period are uncommon. The rash associated with roseola usually starts around the third or fourth day after fever onset and appears as raised red bumps on the back of the neck or upper back, spreading quickly over the trunk to the arms and legs. The rash usually lasts 2-3 days, is not itchy and children often feel and act like their normal selves during this time.  Treatment is supportive, meaning bed rest if the child is fatigued and plenty of fluids. Most modern doctors are now returning to the wisdom of their elders by not treating fever unless your child’s discomfort is extreme.  Some comfort measures to consider before reaching for oral fever reducing medication are:

  • Tepid (lukewarm) bath or sponge bath. Bathing in water colder than lukewarm causes shivering, which is actually the body’s innate response to try and raise its temperature (such as when we shiver in the wintertime).
  • Cool cloth to the forehead
  • Frequent sips of broth/soups
  • Elderberry syrup to help support immunity (elderberry syrup can be purchased at most pharmacies in a pinch; here’s a good recipe for making your own if you have elderberries on hand)
  • Roman chamomile hydrosol in a sponge bath or cloth to the forehead

When your child has roseola, it’s best to keep them home from daycare or school for a few days. Frequent hand washing to prevent the disease spread is important.


Fifth Disease (Parvovirus B19)


Fifth disease (also known as erythema infectiosum) was originally named as part of a group of common childhood illness. It was the “fifth” viral rash-causing disease seen in children along with measles, rubella, varicella, and roseola. The cause of fifth disease is parvovirus B19, but should not be confused with the parvovirus that dogs and cats get. Parvovirus seen in animals is not transmissible to humans. Fifth disease is most commonly seen in school-age children between the ages of 5-15, but anyone may be infected by it. Transmission is via respiratory droplets such as from coughing or sneezing. [2]

Fifth disease often begins after an incubation period of 4-14 days with a low-grade fever, sniffles and headache. Symptoms are generally mild and pass within a couple of days, and parents conclude that the child is “over” the illness.  However, in most cases of fifth disease, a bright red rash then breaks out on the face, giving rise to the term “slapped cheek” appearance.  Most people with fifth disease are only infectious during the time they have the mild cold-type symptoms, before the appearance of the rash. The illness is generally mild and passes within 5-7 days; however, those with compromised immune systems or pregnant women may be affected more severely. If you are pregnant and contract fifth disease, check with your obstetrician; however, serious complications are not common.  Persons with a certain type of anemia and/or a compromised immune system should contact their doctor for advice.

Treatment is focused on relieving discomfort associated with the cold-type symptoms like rest and frequent fluids. Washing hands frequently to prevent disease spread and covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing is always good practice. Teach your child to cough or sneeze into their bent elbow, not their hands.  Once the rash appears, it’s considered safe to send your child back to school or daycare.


Hand/Foot/Mouth Disease (Coxsackievirus)



Hand-foot-mouth disease (HFM) is a common illness caused by a member of the Coxsackievirus “A” family.  Hand-Foot-Mouth disease is not the same as Hoof and Mouth Disease, which affects animal livestock and can’t be transmitted from animals to humans. It occurs mainly during the summer and fall in the U.S. and mostly affects those in the 6 months-3 years age range but can occur at any age.  Hand-Foot-Mouth disease is highly contagious with an incubation period of about 1 week, being passed through either direct contact (touch) with an infected person or object or by coughing or sneezing (droplet).  It’s characterized by painful blisters on the inside of the mouth and throat and the palms of hands/soles of the feet; the blisters generally last five to seven days and may burst and peel. Sores in the mouth and throat may be so painful that the child has little interest in eating or drinking.  Coxsackievirus may also be accompanied by fever, headache, or body aches, but many children don’t have these symptoms. Hand-Foot-Mouth disease is considered to be most contagious during the first few days of the illness, and it’s recommended that kids stay home from daycare or school for a few days to avoid spreading the infection. [3]

Treatment is directed towards replacing fluids with frequent small sips of fluids or sucking on popsicles.  Frequent hand-washing is important in helping prevent the spread of illness, though getting children to comply is often difficult because of the uncomfortable blisters on their hands.




Varicella (chicken pox) is a disease that was once common in childhood, but is less common today due to a widespread vaccination campaign begun in the U.S in the 1980s. It is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a member of the herpes virus family. The infection is spread either through direct contact (touch) with an infected person or object but is much more commonly spread by droplets through sneezing or coughing. In the U.S., varicella is most commonly seen in unvaccinated children aged 9-11.  The illness has a short incubation period of 1-2 days and usually begins with headache, cough, fever and lack of appetite; a raised red rash typically appears a day or two after the start of the first symptoms.[4]

The varicella rash goes through distinct phases: red, swollen bumps or spots start on the child’s trunk. Spread to the face and neck is usual and is less common on the arms and legs. The bumps turn into fluid-filled blisters; the blisters then swell and pop, leaking their fluid. The third stage is when the lesions “crust” over. Infected persons are most contagious from 1-3 days before the appearance of a rash until the blistered areas crust over, usually 5-7 days after the rash first appears.

The majority of people who get varicella recover completely and uneventfully, though a small minority may develop serious complications. These include children or adults with weakened immune systems stemming from chronic illness or cancer, and pregnant women. Those persons should contact their physician immediately to discuss treatment options.

Treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms. The itching associated with varicella infection can be fierce, and secondary skin infections in small children from scratching are fairly common. Therefore, frequent oatmeal baths, cool compresses, and sometimes antihistamines are employed to help reduce itching.  A soothing hydrosol like lavender or Roman chamomile could be added to the baths or compresses*.


Bacterial Rashes (Exanthems)

A bacterial exanthem is a rash caused by being infected with a bacterium. These infections are much less common than viral exanthems and the treatment is different. The most common bacterial exanthem is caused by scarlet fever.

Scarlet Fever


Scarlet fever (also known as scarlatina) is caused by the same bacterium that is the source of strep throat, Streptococcus pyogenes group A.  Strep is spread by either direct or droplet contact and scarlet fever develops in a small percentage of infected people. It is generally a mild illness and easily cured by antibiotics. If left untreated, however, it can lead to serious complications like rheumatic fever, kidney damage, and pneumonia. Scarlet fever most often occurs in children aged 5-12 after a fairly wide incubation period of 12 hours to 7 days but it can affect older teens and adults as well. The illness starts with complaints of a dry, scratchy, or sore throat accompanied by fever, headache, nausea, and fatigue. After 1-3 days, a bright red rash develops. The scarlet fever rash is usually spread evenly over the body and has a rough, “sand-papery” feel. The tongue may be swollen and very red, having what is called a “strawberry-like” appearance.

Treatment is with an appropriate antibiotic, and after a full 24 hours of dosing, it’s considered safe to return to school, daycare, or work. Frequent sips of broth and other fluids will help soothe a sore throat; and as with most other transmissible illnesses, hand washing to prevent spread of the disease is of critical importance.

Next week, part two of the Rash Roundup will discuss externally produced rashes such as ringworm, poison ivy, and heat rash. See you then on The Bridge!

We want you to learn as much as you want about essential oils and how to use them safely.  If you have any questions, comments or other concerns you are welcome to email us at or come join us on Facebook at Safe Essential Oil Recipes!



1.  Roseola. Mayo Clinic website.

2.  Fifth Disease. Centers for Disease Control website.

3. Coxsackieviruses. Medscape e-medicine website.

4. Varicella. Pubmed Health website.

5. Scarlet fever. MedicineNet website.




Zap the Zits!


Whether you call them zits, spots, or pimples, doctors estimate that acne affects more than 80% of people at some point in their lives. Today’s post from The Bridge discusses how and why acne forms in human skin, what the common types of acne are and treatments that exist, both from an allopathic (Western medicine) and complementary/alternative (holistic) standpoint.


Acne (Acne vulgaris or common acne) has likely plagued humans for thousands of years. Researchers studying ancient Egyptians and Greeks have found mentions of acne in medical texts of the time. Popular anti-acne and facial scar remedies were found in the boy-King Tutankhamun’s tomb, suggesting that he may have suffered from the condition. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, considered by many to be the father of modern medicine, discusses acne in his text De Morbis Vulgaribus. The vocabulary term he used to describe acne implies that the condition comes “with the first growth of the beard”, signifying around the time of puberty.[1]

Throughout recorded history, there have been a number of theories as to why acne occurs. The 3rd century B.C. poet Theocritus opined that telling lies causes pimples to form on the nose; and in the 4th century A.D. a physician instructed people to wipe their faces with a cloth while watching the skies for a falling star, and consequently, the pimples would fall from the body.  In Elizabethan times, people were believed to have been afflicted with acne via witchcraft hexes or spells.[2]

Even today, there isn’t always agreement on the exact cause of acne, but almost all experts agree that the condition begins when dead skin cells begin to shed and block pores. The dead skin cells then react with sebum, the natural oil that our skin produces. This eventually is what causes an acne lesion to form.  For many years, scientists believed that skin bacteria (including the most common Proprionibacterium acnes) is what caused acne to form.  However, recent studies indicate that while there are “unfriendly” bacteria living on skin that help support the development of acne, there is also a “friendly” strain of the same P. acnes bacterium that actually helps protect skin from forming acne lesions! People have have never been troubled by acne have been found to have high levels of the “friendly” bacterial strain on their skin. Consequently, the theory that bacteria is the cause of acne has been discarded by many researchers.

Many researchers now believe that oxidative stress causes the formation of acne. The theory alleges that the skin’s own natural sebum oil oxidizes (reacts with exposure to oxygen) when exposed to air on the skin’s surface, and this begins a cycle of inflammation. This inflammation may be worsened by one’s own genetics or by conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), stress, diet, gut, or environmental issues.  The following graphic helps explain the cycle:

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.10.10 PM

Regardless of which theory is actually correct, acne causes a great deal of mental stress, to the point where people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on products and medications designed to help heal their skin.

Types of Acne

  • Comedones (blackheads and whiteheads)

 When a hair follicle gets clogged with dead skin cells and sebum, this is the beginning of a comedo (“comedones” is the plural of comedo). The illustration below shows what happens in the shaft of the hair follicle when comedones form: [3]


Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.30.35 PM

Blackheads are comedones that are “open” at the surface of the skin. I used to think as a teenager that blackheads were caused by trapped dirt in my skin pores. Remember how sebum oxidation was mentioned above as the most likely cause of acne? It is sebum’s chemical reaction with air on the surface of the skin that causes it to turn black. In contrast, whitehead comedones stay “closed” at the surface of the skin. Since the sebum is closed off to air, the comedo doesn’t turn black.

  • Papules and Pustules

 When comedones become increasingly red, irritated or inflamed, they can worsen, progressing to papules or pustules. This indicates a more severe form of acne. (see illustration)


  • Nodules and Cysts

Nodules and cysts are the most severe forms of acne and form large, painful swellings on the face and/or body. This type of acne can lead to permanent pitting and scarring and often causes great emotional distress. (see illustration)




Many treatments exist for acne, and they are dependent upon contributing factors such as the type of acne, hormonal shifts, and age and skin type. Allopathic (Western) medical treatments for acne include topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, which reduces the amount of skin bacteria and is a drying agent; antibiotic gels which reduce bacterial population on the skin, and retinoid creams, which help unclog pores and speed cell turnover.

Systemic (internal) anti-acne agents include antibiotic pills, hormones like the birth control pill for women who have hormonally-mediated acne, and Isotretinoin (Accutane), a powerful medication used only in the most persistent cases of nodular or cystic acne, as it carries the risk of significant side effects.[4]

Other allopathic methods of acne treatment involving neither topical nor internal methods include lasers and other light therapies, chemical peels, and incision and drainage of large cysts by the dermatologist.

Complementary/Alternative/Holistic Treatment Methods

  • Diet

Although medical science has disproven the old adage that greasy fried foods and chocolate worsen acne, eating a healthy diet full of vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, and protein supports all body processes, including promoting healthy skin.  Some researchers tout the benefits of fish oil, especially fermented cod liver oil, in reducing the appearance of acne. Also, carefully choosing your diet to limit foods believed to cause gut or immune issues, such as gluten-rich foods or dairy, may be helpful. Proper hydration with water is also important.

  • Honey

Although definitive studies have yet to be published supporting this treatment, honey (especially manuka honey) has been shown to positively affect the appearance of skin breakouts. It’s theorized that the honey reduces the amount of destructive “free radicals” (oxidizing substances) on the skin.

  • Oil Cleansing

An increasingly popular method of controlling acne is the oil cleansing method. Simply put, the skin’s natural sebum (oil) is secreted to help protect skin, keeping it smooth and supple. If sebum is continuously stripped away by harsh skin cleansers or topical medication like benzoyl peroxide, the body says “Uh oh! There’s not enough sebum going to the skin–I have to make MORE!”  This leads to a vicious cycle of more sebum production, which can lead to more acne.  The oil cleansing method may seem like exactly the wrong thing to do–“I have oily skin and you want me to put *more* oil on it??” but many people find that it balances the production of sebum, thereby leading to clearer skin.

How to do the oil cleansing method: take a room temperature carrier oil (like one of the carrier oils featured in today’s Day 22 Christmas in July sale!) and massage a teaspoon or two thoroughly into your skin. Then take a very warm wet washcloth to remove the oil, pat dry, and voilà, you’re done!  You might ask “But which carrier oil should I use?”  The answer is somewhat dependent upon your skin type.

  • Almond, sweet  (all skin types, especially oily)
  • Apricot kernel (dry, mature, or “normal” skin types)
  • Argan (all types, but especially mature skin)
  • Avocado (mature and very dry skin)
  • Camellia seed (mature skin)
  • Evening primrose (dry, mature, or hormonal skin)
  • Grapeseed (all skin types, but especially oily)
  • Hazelnut (oily/acne prone skin)
  • Jojoba (since jojoba is a plant wax that closely mimics the structure of skin’s own sebum, it’s ideal for many skin types)
  • Sunflower Seed (all skin types)

The above is not an all-inclusive list; note that fractionated coconut oil doesn’t make the list as it tends to be comedogenic (clogs pores). The list also doesn’t take into account individual skin type; for instance, jojoba is supposed to be non-comedogenic, but I break out when I use it. Conversely, rose hip seed oil is known to be comedogenic, but I can use it without breaking out; so sometimes a little trial and error testing is called for. For more information on the oil cleansing method, see Christina’s blog post and also Retha’s post about choosing a carrier oil.

Essential Oils

There are a number of essential oils believed to be helpful in promoting or maintaining clear, smooth skin. These include:

  • Bergamot
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Palmarosa
  • Australian sandalwood
  • Rosemary
  • Tea tree

Again, the list is not all-inclusive. Proper dilution of essential oils for topical use on the skin is imperative; we recommend no stronger than a 1% dilution for use on the face.  Caution is necessary to avoid sun exposure when using an oil that has phototoxic properties such as bergamot.

Making positive changes to your diet, reducing stress in your life, and finding a cleansing method that works for you may all help improve the vibrant, healthy look of your skin!

We want you to learn as much as you want about essential oils and how to use them safely.  If you have any questions, comments or other concerns you are welcome to email us at or come join us on Facebook at Safe Essential Oil Recipes!


1. Grant RNR, MD.  The History of Acne. Proc R Soc Med, Vol. 44 (8); 1951

2. Puusa, S.  Acne Einstein website,

3. WebMD. Acne Visual Dictionary.

4. American Academy of Dermatology website. Isotretinoin.—l/isotretinoin

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Worried About Warts?



NOTE: This post discusses common, harmless skin conditions caused by HPV that are often seen in children and adults. It does not speak to HPV infection that involves sexual transmission, cancer, HIV, or other serious conditions.

Today, The Bridge discusses warts, an extremely common skin condition that has affected most of us at some point during our lives.  Common warts are painless skin growths that are usually raised, bumpy, and flesh-colored (see illustration)


Warts are caused by viruses in the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. The virus is contracted through direct skin-to-skin contact such as a “high-five” or handshake or indirect contact with an infected surface such as a pencil, toy, or doorknob. The HPV virus breaches the outermost layer of the skin, usually through a tiny scratch or crack which may not even be visible to the naked eye. The virus causes rapid growth of cells in the outer layer of the skin, creating a wart over time. Simple warts may or may not spread and in most cases will go away completely without treatment. During the time when warts are present, though, they may cause physical discomfort if located in an area where chafing occurs, such as on the hand when holding a pen or in areas rubbed by clothing. If so, there are a number of ways that warts can be treated, both medically and holistically.

In traditional Western (allopathic) medicine, remedies include freezing warts with liquid nitrogen, burning the warts with caustic solutions, scraping them off with a scalpel, or inserting a needle which runs an electric current through the wart. More severe cases may require laser skin re-surfacing, but this is rarely necessary. Popular holistic methods of treating warts include “smothering” them or using herbs, essential oils, or vitamins to burn the wart at the skin surface.  Whichever method(s) are chosen, treating warts is a process requiring time and patience.

Duct tape

“Smothering” a wart involves using an application of duct tape.  Cut a piece of duct tape to fit the dimensions of the wart. Stick the tape on the wart and leave for 5-6 days, then remove the tape. Soak the wart in water for a few minutes and then file or scrape the wart down with a (disposable) emery board or pumice stone.  If the wart is still present, repeat the process.

Apple cider vinegar

A common herbal remedy is to use undiluted apple cider vinegar (preferably an unfiltered vinegar with the “mother” present like Bragg’s). Dab the wart with vinegar and then apply a band-aid over the site. Repeat daily until the wart shrivels and falls off.

Herbal compress

You can make an herbal compress with powdered birch bark, available online and in some health food stores. Birch bark contains an aspirin-like salicylate compound which you can apply to the skin daily to gradually “burn” the wart.  Steep some powdered birch bark in hot water as if making a tea, let cool and then strain. Dip a small square of gauze bandage into the liquid, squeeze out the excess moisture and apply to the skin; cover with tape or a bandaid.  Store the extra liquid in the refrigerator.

Vitamin C

Another “burning” method is to crush a few vitamin C tablets and add enough water to make a paste; apply the paste directly to the wart once daily and cover with a bandage.

Essential oils

Using essential oils is also a consideration. In conjunction with essential oil safety expert Robert Tisserand, Plant Therapy has developed a kid safe (ages 2-10) product designed to help smooth raised skin edges called No More Warts*. It is safe and effective for children over age 10 and adults as well. Dab the lesion with a 50% mixture of carrier oil and the synergy at least twice daily and cover with a band-aid.

Creative visualization

Andrew Weil, M.D., who is world-renowned in the field of integrative medicine (an approach to health care which encompasses body, mind, and spirit) recommends mental visualization as his preferred technique for removing warts; Dr. Weil says that children are particularly good at this!  You can read more about this interesting modality here.


Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is another common skin condition caused by an HPV virus.  It’s contracted in the same way as common warts either through direct skin contact or indirect contact with an object. Molluscum usually presents with firm, round, pinkish-red painless bumps on the skin. The bumps often have a central indentation (see illustration).


Molluscum may occur anywhere on the body and tends to be seen in clusters. In persons with healthy immune systems, molluscum warts may last for several months (the general consensus is between six to eighteen months) but may last much longer in persons whose immune systems are compromised through cancer treatment or other serious illness.  In the majority of cases, doctors elect not to treat the condition as the therapy itself can cause physical scarring and emotional distress. However, if molluscum warts cause significant chafing under clothing, make it difficult to hold a pencil, or cause emotional distress to the child, doctors may choose to treat it.

Western (allopathic) medicine treatment methods for molluscum are generally the same as described above, with burning, freezing, scraping, and electrocautery methods being the most common.  In a minority of cases where molluscum is persistent for long periods (years) or is heavily clustered, laser treatments combined with topical retinoid or anti-viral creams may be prescribed.

On his website, Dr. Weil answered a question from a mother whose child was infected with molluscum; mom was asking what could be done to help her child.  Dr. Weil noted that it can be difficult to wait for the condition to disappear on its own and said: “I don’t know of any natural remedies that would cure the condition, but you might speed things along by taking your daughter to a hypnotherapist. Skin conditions often respond very well to hypnotic suggestion.”  In the same post, he also mentions herbal preparations that may be useful in stimulating the immune system to provide support.

The takeaway point here is that while warts can be less than aesthetically pleasing and frustrating to deal with, they are (nearly always) harmless and will resolve with time. In my own practice as an Emergency Department nurse, I find that it’s most often parents or grandparents who are more traumatized by the condition than the child who is actually affected.

We want you to learn as much as you want about essential oils and how to use them safely.  If you have ANY questions, comments or other concerns you are welcome to email us at or come join us on Facebook at Safe Essential Oil Recipes!




Andrew Weil, MD website: “Use your head to remove warts?”



Tick-borne Disease


Raise your hand if you (like I do) shudder when you see a tick. Ick! Finding a tick attached to your skin can put a damper on outdoor seasonal fun, especially if you end up ill from the bite. Although some tick species don’t carry disease and there are different infections carried by other species of ticks, Lyme disease is a common infection transmitted by the bite of Ixodes scapularis, the blacklegged deer tick.

The term “Lyme Arthritis” was coined in 1975 when a group of children (and several adults) in the Old Lyme, Connecticut area contracted an unusual illness characterized by fatigue, fever, headache, rash, and joint pain. At first, the illness was mistaken for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Intrigued, epidemiologists at Yale University investigated the cluster of cases. It quickly became apparent that those affected had a common history of exposure to bites from the blacklegged deer tick; thus, the location where the outbreak occurred became incorporated into the syndrome’s name. In 1979, the term “Lyme Disease” was applied to the condition, and in 1982 Dr. Willy Burgdorfer discovered the long-sought causative organism of Lyme disease, a spirochete bacterium which was named Borrelia burgdorferi. [1]

It’s a common belief that Lyme disease is endemic only to parts of the United States, but Lyme is responsible for over 300,000 new infections annually in the US and six of the world’s seven continents.  Incredibly, blood analysis from penguins located in two sub-Antarctic islands shows evidence of antibodies against Lyme disease, the infection having been carried by migrant sea gulls. [2]

As previously mentioned, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.  An infected tick finds a host, often “hitchhiking” on a deer, human, squirrel, dog, bird, etc. that brushes past it in tall grass or brush. The tick then burrows into the host’s skin and feeds on capillary blood until it is full (a process which takes 2-3 days), at which point it disengages from the host and drops off.  Most scientists believe that a Borrelia-carrying tick must be embedded and feeding on a host for greater than 24 hours in order to transmit the infection. [3]

Should the tick bite result in a transference of infection to the host, there are a number of symptoms which can result. Most commonly, a spreading “bulls-eye” rash (erythema migrans) appears in 70-80% of infected persons. The rash usually shows at the site of the bite and can be small, about half-dollar size, or can range up to 12 inches in diameter. The rash generally comes on within 3-30 days after the bite with the average being 7 days. Other common symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and swollen/aching joints. Less common but more severe symptoms are drooping/weakness on one side of the face (Bell’s palsy), irregular heartbeat, or inflammation and swelling of the brain (meningitis). [4]

In the early stages of the disease, orally administered antibiotics successfully treat the majority of Lyme disease cases. However,  a minority of cases will require prolonged oral or even intravenous therapy to effect a cure. Unfortunately, there are some sufferers of Lyme disease whose symptoms will persist for weeks, months, or even years despite treatment. This condition is referred to as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome and can cause significant impairments in a person’s quality of life. [5]

Avoiding tick bites is the best way to keep from getting infected. As mentioned previously, ticks are opportunistic and wait for the host to brush past them in heavily wooded or tall grassy areas. Wearing light colored clothing (so you can more easily see any ticks that end up on your clothes) and wearing long pants tucked into socks, shoes, or boots may assist in keeping ticks away from the skin. Applying chemical repellents made with DEET or wearing clothing that has been treated with 0.5% permethrin has been recommended to repel ticks, though some families opt to use more “natural” solutions. A spray containing geranium essential oil may assist in keeping clothing, sleeping bags, tents, etc. tick-free; this recipe comes from Plant Therapy aromatherapist Christina Smith’s blog post Tick Off the Ticks! 

  • 4 ounce spray bottle
  • 1 ounce of witch hazel
  • 1/4 tsp mild dish soap (Castile works great)
  • 40 drops of Geranium Bourbon (Pelargonim x asperum) essential oil
  • Distilled water (or tap, if that’s all you have but it shortens the shelf life)

Add the above ingredients, except water, to the spray bottle, shaking well to combine.
Allow to “mellow” for about an hour, then add the distilled water.
Shake well prior to each use, and spray clothing focusing on the ankles/shoes and legs.
Avoid spraying near the face.

If you wish to avoid using commercial preparations such as Frontline or Advantix on your family pet, treating the pet’s coat with a powder made from diatomaceous earth, yarrow flowers, and neem leaf can help deter ticks (and fleas as well!)  Here’s a do-it-yourself parasite dust recipe which I’ve used with success:

  • 1 cup of Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (using food grade DE is important, as non-food grade DE can be harmful to pets and children). You can  purchase food grade DE at your local hardware or garden supply store.
  • ½ cup of Neem Powder (Azadirachta indica) You can find neem powder at a well-equipped health food store or online.
  • ½ cup of Yarrow Powder (Achillea millefolium) Yarrow powder can be purchased online or at well-equipped health food stores.

Directions:  In a mason-type jar, add each of the powders and stir gently to mix. You may wish to wear a protective mask as diatomaceous earth produces fine airborne powder which can irritate the respiratory tract, and it is preferable to make the mix outdoors. Store tightly capped.

To apply: For my 22 lb. dog Georgia, I use 1-2 teaspoons depending on whether her coat is clipped or is longer.  Starting at the tail end, rub the powder into the coat against the direction the hair grows, as close to the skin as possible–be sure to really work it in. Avoid getting powder into the dogs eyes, nose, and mouth. Pay special attention to the legs and belly as this is often where ticks “hitch” their ride. The powder should be applied to a dry coat; if the animal gets wet swimming or in the rain it will need to be re-applied after the coat dries.  I usually do an application every 3-4 weeks during the summer, and a bit more often if she starts coming in with more than 1 tick on her.

Also, spraying your pet’s bedding with geranium hydrosol may help deter insect threats.

If despite your best efforts you discover a tick embedded in your skin: first, don’t panic like I do. Yes, I’m an emergency room nurse and I have seen lots of yucky stuff in my career, but nothing makes me turn pale and sweaty like seeing an embedded tick!   🙂   There are a number of commercially available tools to help remove ticks from the skin, but a pair of fine tipped tweezers will work just as well. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull SLOWLY and steadily straight upwards. (See illustration)




Don’t twist the tweezers or pull up too quickly; this might cause the tick’s body to break off and leave the mouth parts still embedded in the skin. Once the tick is removed, flush it down the toilet or wrap in a tissue and dispose of it. Don’t crush a tick between your bare fingers as it’s possible to infect yourself from the crushed insect parts. Clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water. If you’re in the woods away from running water, you can use hand sanitizer, alcohol, witch hazel, or iodine, and don’t forget to clean the tweezers as well. [6]

Ticks don’t have to ruin your summertime fun! With a little preparation and forethought, you’ll be better able to avoid tick bites and the possibility of Lyme infection.


1.”A Brief History of Lyme Disease in Connecticut.” Connecticut Department of Public Health website.

2 “Lyme in 80+ Countries Worldwide”. Lyme Disease Association website.

3 “Lyme Transmission”. Centers for Disease Control website.

4 “Lyme Signs and Symptoms”.  Centers for Disease Control website

5 “Lyme Treatment”. Centers for Disease Control website.

6 “Tick Removal”. Centers for Disease Control website.



Seasonal Allergies, Part 3


Welcome back to “The Bridge” and to the final installment in the seasonal allergy series. In Part 1 I described how allergies come about, and in Part 2 ways to improve the home environment against allergies were discussed. Today we’ll look at both traditional Western medicine and complementary/alternative remedies for seasonal allergies.


In Part 1 of this series we saw how inflammatory chemicals called histamines are released by the body in an allergic response. Antihistamines, literally “against histamines”, block the release of these body chemicals and thereby reduce the amount of nasal swelling, sneezing, and itchy/watery eyes. These medicines are usually available without a doctor’s prescription, are taken by mouth, and include Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec (among others). Sometimes antihistamines have an added decongestant like pseudoephedrine to further help reduce swelling in the nose. The product is then described as Claritin-D (“D” for decongestant).

Nasal Sprays

Products such as Nasonex, Flonase, Veramyst are anti-inflammatory steroid medicines in a liquid base and are sprayed into the nose to reduce swelling and mucus.

Leukotriene inhibitors

When antihistamines and nasal sprays aren’t successful in treating allergy symptoms, doctors sometimes prescribe leukotriene inhibitors like Singulair. Leukotrienes are inflammatory body chemicals which cause swelling in the membranes of the nose and lower airways (lungs). This swelling can make it harder to breathe as airways become narrowed and more mucus is made by the body. Taken by mouth, leukotriene inhibitors can lessen the release of inflammatory chemicals which cause swelling and mucus production.

Complementary/Alternative Therapies     If you prefer to avoid pharmaceuticals, there are other modalities which can help symptoms of seasonal allergies.


  • Dong quai (Angelica sinensis)
  •  Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
  • Gingko (Gingko biloba)
  •  Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
  •  Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
  •  Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

These herbs can be used individually or in combination in a tea or tincture.  See this article for further information.


In very simplistic terms, the practice of homeopathy includes giving tiny doses of the same substance which would normally produce illness in a person in an attempt to treat or cure an illness.


  • Honey –some natural nutrition sites promote eating raw local honey, as bees who produce the honey do so after feeding on pollen from plants that are native to your area.
  • A diet rich in leafy green vegetables and deep orange/yellow vegetables
  • Avoid caffeine, sugar, wheat, chocolate, alcoholic beverages
  • Add probiotics to your diet. This is a recent interesting article regarding probiotics use for allergy relief.

Essential Oils

Essential oils can be helpful in reducing unwanted symptoms such as stuffy/runny nose, itchy/watery eyes, and sneezing. Some oils that may be used for adults should be avoided in children due to the presence of certain components such as 1,8 cineole. Some find a combination of lavender, lemon, and peppermint effective in treating symptoms. I personally do not find that combination works for my seasonal allergies.  My picks for adult sniffles/sneezys:

  • Blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum)
  • German chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
  • Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia)
  • Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia ct 1,8 cineole)
  • Fir needle (Abies sibirica)

For kids:

  • Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia)
  • Blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum)
  • Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
  • German chamomile (Matricaria recutitia)
  • Fir needle (Abies sibirica)

Most of the the oils on my “adult” list are safe for children as well. An exception would be Niaouli, which has a significant 1,8 cineole content.  Plant Therapy offers a popular product called “Sneezy Stop” which is a kid safe oil synergy (ages 2-10). The blend can be diffused, used in a personal inhaler, or diluted to rub topically on the chest.

In summary, there are effective ways to treat seasonal allergies, both from a Western medicine and from a holistic perspective. Whether you choose one over the other or a combination of both, it pays to do research into the risk vs. benefit of each modality.



Sources: (herbal list)