“My daughter has always had seasonal allergies but they’ve become acute over the years. We’ve tried a number of treatments that her pediatrician prescribed to her, but nothing seems to be working. One of the allergy medications even made her break out in hives. It seems like her system has stopped responding to all the medication. What do we do about these allergies!!”
What is an Allergy?
Allergy is an abnormal reaction or increased sensitivity of our body to certain substances in the environment. An allergic individual will produce some symptoms when exposed to these substances while they can be completely harmless to the non-allergic population. The main reason for this is that allergic people make a special type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which can react with these substances called allergens, in a harmful way.
The reaction between allergens and the IgE antibodies causes the release of certain substances like histamine, which produce an allergic reaction. These allergic reactions or diseases may involve any part of the body; most frequent being the nose and chest with resultant symptoms of hay fever, or asthma. The skin and eyes also commonly show allergic symptoms.
Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergy, which affects many organs at the same time causing a rapid decrease in blood pressure, fainting and occasional death.
Allergy has two main types
You could have a Seasonal allergy to the airborne pollen (from trees and grass) in the form of hay fever when plant pollination begins in the warm breeze of spring – a tree pollen season. You probably will feel it with every inhalation.
While pollen and congress grass (Parthenium) generally create a havoc in mid spring, ragweed is responsible for the majority of early winter respiratory and skin allergies.
Perennial allergies usually are year-round problems. Common triggers for them include mold spores, pet dander (dead skin and hair/feather) and dust mite. These allergens send the body’s immune system into overdrive, leading to allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a stuffy nose, and itching.
In situations where damp and rainy conditions are followed by a warmer weather, a higher concentration of mold in the air too can contribute to spring allergy.
Cause of Spring Allergies
Spring is a season of pollination. Trees/flowering plants release pollen that are light and dry, and can be carried far by the spring breeze. If you’re allergic to any of them you’ll start sneezing, experience congestion, and feel itchy eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. You’ll get some relief from these symptoms on rainy or cloudy days, or when there’s no wind to make the pollen airborne. But when the weather is warm and dry, and especially when the wind picks up, allergies are likely to become worse.
This fungus works in a similar way. Mold, such as yeast and mildew, releases seeds called spores that are carried by the wind. They’re abundant in the air outside and tend to cause the worst allergy symptoms from spring through fall. Also, damp, humid areas such as basements, shower ceilings or curtains in bathrooms and rugs inside your home are another hot spot– a warm, humid spot for them.
Your genes have a definite role to play in your allergies.
Symptoms of Allergy
Symptoms of Hay fever caused by pollen or mold include:
Nasal congestion with a watery/runny or a stuffed-up nose
Post nasal dropping
Itchy, red and watery eyes
Dark circles under the eyes
Itching in the throat
Is it an allergy or a cold – the flu?
Since allergies develop when your immune system creates defensive antibodies in response to the allergens, they can linger for weeks or even months. A cold usually doesn’t last for more than 10 days. Also, colds and flu might have fever, aches and pains or purulent discharges which don’t usually happen with allergies.
Allergic symptoms in skin could be itching, redness, burning or dryness leading to eruptions like rashes/hives or eczema.
Allergic symptoms in eyes could be itching, redness, watering or a foreign body sensation.
Allergic symptoms in the respiratory tract can manifest in the form of cough, wheezing or shortness of breath, or a feeling of congestion and suffocation in the chest.
Diagnosis of Allergy
Your Doctor may advise a few tests to detect your allergies:
Blood test – to detect the presence of IgE antibodies in the blood.
Skin patch test – scratching your skin with a tiny bit of an allergen, performed especially in cases of eczema.
Skin prick test – involves using a small needle to prick a drop of fluid containing a known allergen just under the surface of skin. If there is reaction, it means test is positive and if skin does not react in any way, this will indicate a negative result.
Available Treatment Options
The conventional form of treatment for all sorts of allergies, whether nasal or skin is antihistamines like Cetrizine/Levocitrizine or decongestants or a combination of both. They tend to provide temporary relief. You take an anti histaminic and you are fine for some hours. The sneezing and the running nose stop. The itching in the nose and eyes disappears. But the effect lasts only for some hours. Once the effect wears off, the problem returns in full force.
If these treatments do not work, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid nasal spray.
Immunotherapy (allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets) is the treatment for you if you fail to respond to any of these. It exposes your body gradually to bigger doses of the allergen. This approach can curb your symptoms for a longer period of time than allergy drugs.
I have had patients coming to me who had been taking these anti allergic medicines for years together. These anti-histaminics are sleep inducing and often people tend to feel sleepy or dizzy during the daytime, which can get dangerous. The easy availability and low cost makes these anti allergic medicines easily accessible. In fact they have become sort of home remedies for allergies and people just keep popping them in without even a prescription from a qualified doctor.
Homoeopathy – The best alternative
Homoeopathy is best placed to treat all sorts of allergies. The reason for this is that it does not just treat the symptoms of the allergies, instead it works to root out their cause – hyperactivity of the immune system. These allergens may be harmless in themselves but the hyperactive immune system goes into an overdrive when it comes in contact with them. It looks at them as offenders, tries to react in a defensive manner and wash them off by producing excessive secretions. Homoeopathic medicines repair the immune system. Hyperactivity is corrected and the body starts reacting normally to the same things that used to cause the allergies.
Homoeopathy believes in a strong association between allergies, skin problems (such as eczema and hives) and asthma. It is best not to suppress the symptoms of the skin or mucous membranes since that can actually drive the process of irritation further into the system, creating conditions like asthma.
The aim of Homoeopathy is not only to treat allergy but also to address the underlying cause and individual susceptibility. There are ample of remedies like Galphimia glauca, Allium Cepa, Arsenicum Album, Arsenicum Iodatum, Arum Triphyllum and more, to help in hey fever and respiratory symptoms. Nux vomica is used to treat respiratory difficulties while boosting energy. Sabadilla, Sticta, Wyethia, Natrum Muriaticum etc. help sneezing fits, runny nose, and olfactory sensitivities, while Arundo and Euphrasia remedy itchy or gritty eyes. Nosodes like Influenzinun, Bacillinum, Medorrhinum, Psorinum in conjunction with constitutional medicines work on your genetic predispositions and individual susceptibilities to ultimately throw these tendencies out of your system.
Getting Relief From Spring Allergies
Follow these tips to minimize an allergic reaction from pollen or mold this spring:
Stay indoors and keep your doors and windows closed especially on dry, windy days.
Use allergy filters on your air conditioning units or air purifiers to keep mold spores and dust mites away.
Avoid doing yard work or exercising outdoors on days when pollen counts are high.
Wash your hands and face frequently to wash away allergens. When allergy symptoms are intense, take a shower; it removes allergens from your hair and encourages you to change the clothes that allergens may be clinging to.
Keep indoor allergens to a minimum by mopping, sweeping, and dusting often.
Replace carpet with wood or tile flooring.
Throw out shower curtains, wallpaper, and carpeting that have molds.
Wash showers and sinks with a solution containing 5% bleach and a little detergent to wipe-off most miscreants.
Avoid cigarette smoke, car exhaust and alcohol as they may further aggravate inflammation of your bronchial tissues.
A healthy diet is equally important for keeping your immune system functioning well. For a natural allergy-fighting boost, choose a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C. Sardine, mackerel, salmon, flaxseed, nuts (especially walnuts) are rich sources. Pump up you fluid intake and eat more water-rich fruits and veggies to avoid getting dehydrated. Sipping through hot drinks may relieve your congestion.
IMPORTANT :: You’re not alone with allergies. Millions of people are allergy-prone year-round. If you aren’t getting the relief you require with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medication, may be its time for a Homoeopathic Consultation for a symptom free springtime!
About the Author:
Dr Renu Madan
BHMS (DLI), India.