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Surviving Seasonal Allergies
Instead of shutting the windows, locking the doors and hiding inside until ragweed season is over, try to take control of your seasonal allergies. The end of summer and early fall doesn’t have to be spent lamenting sniffling and sneezing.
What are allergies?
Allergies are a result of abnormal immune system reactions to allergens, things that are usually innocuous to most people. When you are allergic to something, your immune system mistakenly believes that the substance is harmful and a foreign invader to your body. Substances that cause allergic reactions, such as particular foods, pollen, dust mites, or medications, are known as allergens.
How does the body react to allergens?
In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces defenses called IgE antibodies specific to each allergen. Those antibodies then cause various cells in the body to release chemicals into the blood, histamine being an important one. Histamine acts on the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract to produce the symptoms of the allergic reaction.
Future exposure to that same allergen will trigger the exact same antibody response again. Allergic reactions can be fairly mild, like a runny nose or itchy throat, or they can be serious, like trouble breathing.
An asthma attack, for example, is a frequent allergic reaction to something that is inhaled into the lungs by one who is susceptible. Some types of allergies produce numerous symptoms, and in sporadic cases, an allergic reaction can become very dangerous. This severe outcome is called anaphylaxis. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include labored breathing, trouble swallowing, swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, dizziness and potentially death.
What causes allergies and how do you prevent them?
Food sensitivities are a common cause of pediatric allergic reactions, which if detected early enough can be eradicated by early adulthood. It is a good idea to take preventative measures from infancy in order to minimize the potential of allergies.
Limiting the amount of dairy, wheat and sugar consumption can serve to significantly reduce allergic tendencies. Environmental allergens are also very common. Keeping the air as clean as possible is vital to increasing overall immunity and a healthful state. Minimizing dust mites, mold spores in homes, animal dander (saliva, dried skin etc.) and plant pollens are especially important.
Conventional vs. Naturopathic treatments:
Most conventional medications given for allergies are anti-histamines or steroids. Familiar side-effects of these medications are drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, dry mouth. Additionally, allergy medications often need to be changed since the body has an innate response to build a tolerance to these medicines, whereby they will stop being effective.
Aside from medications, there are many natural allergy combaters that one can use effectively. Homeopathy, hydrotherapy, nutrition and supplementation are a few starting points.
Along with vitamin C, stabilized allicin derived from garlic has proven to be paramount in the reduction of allergic symptoms, especially during when pollen is at its peak.
Nahida Jamal, BHSc, ND is part of the team at Trinity Health Clinic, located in North York / Toronto.