Sunday, March 1, 2015

Do vitamins help with allergy symptoms?

You may have read recently that vitamins C or D can help alleviate allergy symptoms, but currently, there isn't much clinical evidence which actually demonstrates vitamins having a significant impact on allergies.

Do vitamins help with allergy symptoms?

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Before you rush out to get these vitamins for your kids suffering from allergies, what you should know is that there isn’t much clinical evidence which demonstrates vitamins having a significant impact on allergies.

Some preliminary studies do suggest that certain vitamins may have effects on our immune systems, but we have to be careful not to be too eager to make the leap from what goes on in the lab to what happens in patients. The true effect of these substances in patients needs to be demonstrated using well designed, peer reviewed and reproducible clinical trials.

Here’s one example: In the 1960s, Linus Pauling, the famous chemist, became convinced that vitamin C could prevent the common cold. He advocated taking three grams of vitamin C every day for this purpose. He also promoted it as a cancer therapy, even writing a book about its curative properties. Later, rigorous clinical trials showed vitamin C had no effect in preventing colds or treating cancer. Yet even today, the notion persists that vitamin C will help to “ward off” a cold. The same is true of zinc. People swear it keeps them from getting a cold, yet there is no conclusive evidence that taking zinc benefits a cold or other immune system conditions.

Vitamins A, C and E have chemical antioxidant effects in the lab, meaning they block oxidation which can lead to the immune system malfunction that can potentially cause disease. But again, one should be cautious when extrapolating these findings to real life. 

Lately, vitamin D has become a fad treatment for people with allergies. A good deal of research was conducted in the lab showing that vitamin D prevents the production of certain allergy causing molecules. More studies were initiated to demonstrate its impact on asthma and eczema. Scientists took inflammatory cells from human skin, airways and gastrointestinal tracts and examined the impact of vitamin D on them. Although positive results have been generated in terms of vitamin D and these cells in the laboratory setting, the jury is still out as to its impact on a living being.

All this being said, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals have been linked to disease, such as pernicious anemia as a result of B12 deficiency, so it doesn’t hurt to take these vitamins. I advise that you follow the labeling instructions for the recommended 100 percent recommended daily allowance value (RDA) as prescribed by the FDA for vitamins and minerals. Most people with a well-balanced diet get enough of these trace nutrients to prevent illness resulting from excessively low levels. I also want to make clear that the real benefits of vitamins in preventing or treating allergies and immune system diseases are far from being proven.


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The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS Assistant Professor of Psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAAAI, FACAAI Associate Professor of Medicine in division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Magee DeFelice, M.D. Division Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Emiliano Tatar, M.D. Pediatrician at Einstein Healthcare Network Roxborough Plaza
Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at CHOP
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP Director of Integrated Health Care for American Psychological Association
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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