To Your Health
April, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 04)
Sneeze No More
Get Rid of Allergy Symptoms Without Drugs
By Clair Whiteman
If you are one of the 26 million Americans who suffer from upper respiratory allergies, you may already be stocking up on tissues as we enter spring. Allergic rhinitis or hay fever is associated with a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms including excess mucous production, nasal blockage, sore throat, stuffy head, puffy eyes, and fatigue. Although none of these symptoms can be classified as life-threatening, anyone with allergies will tell you they can be a nuisance and interfere with daily activities. There are numerous medications that can be effective at masking allergy symptoms, but each comes with its inherent risks and may only treat the symptoms. Fortunately, there are also natural therapies available that can help your body manage the many underlying causes of allergies.
Breaking Down Allergies: The When, Why and How
There are three main forms of upper respiratory allergies. The most common form, seasonal allergic rhinitis, occurs only at specific times of the year in response to high circulating levels of pollen or other allergens in the air. Alternatively, perennial allergic rhinitis occurs year round and is often due to an allergy to pet dander or dust mite droppings. Finally asthma can also be classified as an allergic disorder when it is stimulated by exposure to an external irritant. This form of asthma is classified as extrinsic or atopic and is characterized by excessive mucous production, shortness of breath and cough.
Allergies differ from other forms of illness as they are the result of overactivity of the immune system. When we think of being sick, we typically think of the immune system being unable to fight off an offending agent, such as a bacteria or virus. Allergies, on the other hand, occur when the body initiates an immune response to a non-offending substance, such as pollen or a type of food. In the case of upper respiratory allergies, the body initiates an immune response to an inhaled particle. When the particle comes in contact with the nasal surface, it links with specific antibodies known as IgE, which can be found on the surface of immune cells within the nasal mucosa.
Once this binding takes place, the body stimulates secretion of numerous inflammatory mediators including histamine, heparin, and kinins. These complexes take immediate action by causing nasal vascular dilation, which results in excess mucous production. Meanwhile, immune cells continue to produce other inflammatory messengers known as leukotrienes, which stimulate constriction of bronchial cells to further enhance allergic effects.
Potential Causes to Consider
Allergies and asthma are both increasing in prevalence within the developed world, leading researchers to look into environmental (non-genetic) factors as a possible causative factor. For example, children who are fed solid foods too early or receive antibiotic therapy within the first two years of life are more likely to develop both respiratory and food allergies. This indicates that there may be a protective mechanism in the immunoglobulins in mother's milk as well as the natural microflora of the nasal and oral passages.