Millions of us suffer from allergies of one kind or another. Here, herbalist Klaus Ferlow explains what allergies are, the types that we come across, and offers a variety of natural and effective methods of reduce the symptoms.
IN SPRING EACH YEAR millions of people suffer from allergies. Let's find out about the variety of allergies, the symptoms and causes and what you can do about it.
What are Allergies?
Your eyes itch and are watery, your nose is running, you are constantly sneezing and you are covered in hives. It's allergy season again, and you want to do is curl up into a ball of misery. Common allergic reactions include eczema, hives, hay fever, asthma attacks, food allergies, prescription drug allergies, chemical allergies such as household goods, paints, carpet glue, MCS = Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, environmental allergies (herbicides, pesticides), allergies to animals, especially cats, herbal allergies, insect venom allergies, asthma, allergy from synthetic petroleum derived fragrance oils & perfumes, even from genuine certified organic essential oils. Indoor allergies, such as pet dander, dust mites, and indoor mold are a major cause of allergy and asthma symptoms.
Allergies are abnormal immune system reactions to things that are typically harmless to most people. When you are allergic to something, your immune system mistakenly believes that this substance is harmful to your body. Substances that cause allergic reactions, such as certain foods, dust, plant pollen, or medicines, are known as allergens.
In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces IgE antibodies to that allergen. Those antibodies then cause certain cells in the body to release chemicals into the bloodstream, one of which is histamine.
The histamine then acts on the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastroinstestinal tract and causes symptoms of the allergic reaction. Future exposure to that same allergen will trigger this antibody response again. This means that every time you come into contact with that allergen, you will have an allergic reaction.
Some types of allergies produce multiple symptoms, and in rare cases, an allergic reaction can become very severe and is called anaphylaxis. Signs of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, swallowing, swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat or other parts of the body, and dizziness or loss of consciousness.
Chemical Allergies & Poisoning
More and more people are suffering from chemical allergies & poisoning and some of the environmental contaminants that most frequently cause problems include:
Air pollution, gas, oil, or coal fumes, formaldehyde, chlorine, phenol, carbolic acid, insecticides, disinfectants, paint, hair spray, petroleum derived products such as synthetic fragrances, perfumes, household cleaning products, and metals such as nickel, mercury, chrome, and beryllium.
Other possible allergic responses to foreign chemicals include watery eyes, ringing in the ears, stuffy nose, diarrhea, nausea, upset stomach, asthma, bronchitis, arthritis, fatigue, eczema, intestinal disorders, depression and headache.
Some chemicals are absorbed through the skin; others may be inhaled or ingested and as a result the body's immune system is threatened. Chemical poisoning occurs most often in people who use or who are exposed to chemicals in their work environments, or who use excessive amounts chemical sprays (berry & fruit and wine yard farmers) and sprays against mosquitos.
If you have not already done so, you should see an allergist for testing, it could be any of these health care practitioners such as Allopathic Doctors, Naturopathic Doctors, www.bcna.ca, Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, New Westminster, www.binm.org , Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Doctors and certified blood analysists.
Allergy tests are any of several tests used to determine the substances to which a person is allergic. There are patch-test, scratch-test, skin-test, Elisa, Vega test as well as blood-test. Among the more common are the skin-test, elimination-test (food allergy) and RAST-test (radioallergosorbent).
Many people with untreated allergy symptoms are not aware of how much better they can feel once their symptoms are properly diagnosed and managed by an allergist.
More information about allergy can be obtained by contacting the Health Action Network Society, Burnaby, B.C., www.hans.org.
Treatment and Prevention
After the allergist or blood analysist has made his diagnosis he or she will give you proper information what to use as treatment and/or as prevention.
However, allergy treatment begins at home! Here are a few suggestions:
- avoidance is always the best treatment for allergies
- keep the home cool, between 68 (19 Celsius) and 72 F (23 Celsius)
- maintain a low humidity between 40 – 50%
- make certain there is good ventilation
- have an air filter installed
- don't use chemical sprays in your home
The good news is that you really don't have to strip your house down to bare bones to make it allergy proof. Thorough and regular cleaning generally makes a huge difference in keeping your house as mold and dust free as possible. Patients with asthma or allergic rhinitis that are due to dust mites, molds and other indoor allergens can feel better by taking simples steps as mentioned above.
Allergic reactions that are life-threatening are in a class by themselves. The medical name for this kind of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. A person who has that reaction must receive medical treatment within ½ hour! Symptoms include difficulty breathing, collapse and convulsion.
Standard medical treatment for allergies involves taking decongestants and antihistamines. In severe cases doctors prescribe immunotherapy, known as allergy shots. These treatments work well for some people, but not for everybody since they treat the symptoms, not the cause, which is a confused immune system. Decongestants can cause insomnia and raise blood pressure, antihistamines may cause drowsiness.
However, there are alternative treatments available with herbs and herbal remedies, such as milk thistle, garlic, ginkgo biloba, stinging nettle, chamomile, feverfew, horseradish, Chinese bitter lemon, bell peppers, cayenne pepper, pokeweed shoots, elderberry, peppermint, birch juice or tea, goldenseal tincture, guava and watercress, the last six are high in Vitamin C. Supplement your diet with plenty of fiber, also homeopathic products can be used. Other preventative measures are: get moderate sun, fresh air, plenty of sleep, avoid stressful situations, lymph drainage, reflexology, relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises, eat slow in relaxed atmosphere, herbal bath, clay-wraps, water therapy hot and cold. Strengthen your immune system in early fall with Cat's Claw, Pau D'Arco, Echinacea and Stinging Nettle tinctures.
For more information how to use essential oils for allergies please contact the British Columbia Association of Practising Aromatherapists, www.bcapa.org.
Copyright © 2010 Klaus Ferlow