Combat Allergies—With Sunlight

By Emily Main

Want to treat your allergies? Just get a little sun.

Spending more time outside could be just the trick to knocking off the sniffy nose, watery eyes, and irritated skin that allergy sufferers have to cope with.

Researchers from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health and several Australian universities have found that getting lots of vitamin D from the sun could ward off food allergies, asthma, and eczema. Using data from a study of Australian children, they found that those who lived in southern latitudes, where there isn't much sun, were more likely to have food allergies and eczema than children in the northern, sunnier regions of the country.

Their results mirror those of a study conducted last year on children living in New York City. In that study, kids with a vitamin D deficiency, defined as less than 15 nanograms of the vitamin per milliliter of blood, were more than twice as likely to have a peanut allergy than kids whose levels were in a normal range (30 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood). Vitamin D deficiency in that study was also linked to allergies to shrimp, dogs, cockroaches, ragweed, oak, ryegrass, Bermuda grass, and thistle.

These studies were both conducted on children, and so far, parallel benefits haven't been seen in adults. But they do provide more evidence that we should all make sure we have adequate vitamin D, particularly the allergic among us.

A recent study found that, even in winter, all it takes is 10 minutes of sun exposure a day, with as much of your skin exposed as possible, to absorb enough vitamin D from the sun. The best time to do that is at solar noon, when the sun is at its highest. But for seasonal allergy suffers, that time of day may not be great, since that's also when pollen levels peak. In that case, walk outside earlier or later in the day, and take slightly longer walks to maximize your sun exposure.

Or, take a supplement. Because your body doesn't absorb vitamin D from supplements as well as it does from sunlight, you generally need to take higher doses than you might absorb from exposure to the sun. Aim for a 600-IU supplement of vitamin D3 (which is a more beneficial form of the vitamin than vitamin D2, another supplement you might see at the store). And buy supplements certified by U.S. Pharmacopeia or to ensure you aren't getting contaminated pills.

The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry
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Note: The Rodale Research Feed features new research findings that may include preliminary or unconfirmed results. Check with a healthcare provider, or an appropriate advisor you trust, before making any significant changes based on these reports.

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