By Carol Rudd, registered respiratory therapist, Healing Choices Oasis
Our nose drips, we sneeze and cough, people think we are sick, and the reality is we suffer with allergies. And I mean suffer! Our eyes itch and our ears and throat, even our skin itches. Those who don’t have allergies just don’t understand how irritating and distracting allergies can be. Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergic disease, and the number is increasing.
So, what is an allergy? An allergy is a physical response your body has to something that usually is not problematic, like pollen, grass, dogs, or cats. Allergens can be just about anything: foods, plants, animals, dust, molds—you name it. Our immune system is triggered by an allergen and creates a variety of responses to defend against what our body sees as a foreign invasion. According to the John Hopkins Medicine website, “That’s the job of the immune system, to defend our bodies from microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi and to destroy any infectious microorganism that does invade. The immune system is made up of a complex network of cells and organs (lymphoid organs) that are responsible for the growth and development of lymphocytes.”
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology states “your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.” It’s that allergic reaction that gets us in trouble! Those pesky symptoms can involve the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach, and the skin. The AAAAI further states “each type of IgE has specific ‘radar’ for each type of allergen, and that’s why some people are only allergic to cat dander while others with multiple allergens have many more types of IgE antibodies.”
So what’s to be done? Avoidance has been the first line of defense against allergens. Sometimes, especially with those who have multiple allergies, it’s extremely hard to avoid contact with an allergen.
So, an over-the-counter antihistamine, which helps suppress the allergic response, is the usual first treatment for allergies. Then allergy testing and shots can be used to decrease a person’s sensitivity to an allergen. If that fails, prescription medications, including nasal and oral steriod inhalers, can decrease inflammation and offer some relief. On the holistic spectrum, things like detoxing the body, especially the gut, can be beneficial, as well as adding anti-inflammatory foods. Green tea is a natural antihistamine and only 2 cups a day, two weeks before allergy season will help avoid congestion! Adding spices like cayenne pepper, hot ginger, or fenugreek can calm a sore nose and un-stuff your head. Also acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage can provide relief of symptoms.
Allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. While allergies in children are more common, a first-time occurrence can happen at any age or recur after many years of remission. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to know your triggers and be prepared, be it a seasonal allergy or multiple all-year allergies.