Sneezing, as well as itchy eyes and stuffiness does not always mean you have a cold. Sometimes they signal you have an allergic reaction to something in the air.
An allergy is a state of hypersensitivity when one gets a specific exaggerated immunologic reaction to a normally harmless substance. Respiratory allergies (these are hay fever, cedar fever, etc.) are allergies caused by that reaction of the immune system to a “trigger” (called allergen or antigen) that causes inflammation and/or swelling of the tissue of the nose, eyes, sinuses, throat, ears, larynx, and airways.
People who have allergies often are sensitive to more than one substance. Respiratory allergies can be just annoying things, but they can lead to serious symptoms in asthmatics, and they might cause the development of a secondary bacterial infection in your sinuses, ears, or lungs.
When an ordinarily harmless antigen enters the body of a person allergic to it, the immune system tries to defend itself. We call this defense ‘symptoms’ of an allergy. This is how the body protects itself from the allergen. Symptoms commonly produced include the following:
- itching and watery eyes, or burning eyes
- runny and stuffed nose
- coughing (cough is ordinary dry)
- respiratory symptoms
- skin reactions – hot flashes
- ear popping (without significant pain)
- rapid heart beat
- sinus pressure or stuffiness
It may also be accomplished with the fatigue, headaches, intestinal gas or pain, mood changes and abdominal bloating.
Certain ‘triggers’ switch on the powerful immune response of the body to get rid of the “allergen substance”. What are those allergens in our lives? Common triggers are:
- dust particles
- mold spores
- insect venom
- pet dander
- cockroach debris
- tobacco smoke
- even food, latex rubber, paint fumes and medicines.
But why does our immune system gives such a reaction to normally harmless substance? Eventually, the immune system functions as the body’s defense against invading agents such as bacteria and viruses. And when an allergic person first comes into contact with an allergen, the immune system treats the allergen as if it is virus or bacteria and mobilizes to “immediately attack”. How does it do it? It produces large amounts of a type of antibody (a disease-fighting protein) called immunoglobin E (IgE). This IgE antibody is specific for a certain allergen; to every other allergen there is a certain IgE antibody. These IgE molecules attaches tightly to the body’s mast cells and to and to basophiles, this is just its way of functioning. And these mast cells are actually tissue cells, and basophiles are blood cells. So, when attached it signals the cell to release (or produce) powerful inflammatory chemicals, that act on tissues in various parts of the body, causing the symptoms of allergy.
Certain factors increase likelihood of being allergic to one or more allergens. One of them is that you may inherit a tendency to be allergic.
There are several options of treating allergies:
- Antihistamines – are drugs that counteract the body’s production of histamine, which occurs in response to contact with an allergen. Aimed to prevent or reduce many of the signs of allergy.
- Steroid (cromolyn sodium and other) nasal sprays – are inhaled through the nose to reduce inflammation, nasal swelling and congestion.
- Decongestants – are drugs that reduce congestion, but may create a “rebound effect”.
- Immunotherapy – allergy shots of a small dose of allergen, to let the body becomes accustomed to the allergen; the dose is gradually increased.
- Laser Surgery – use of laser to vaporize mucous forming nasal tissue.
Every other method has side effects. Some of them need to be taken for a long time before the result comes; some of them give immediate result, but cause greater side effects.
If you want to control your symptoms of an allergy you might consider herbal remedies for it. Don’t forget, that every other method should be approved by your doctor, who treats you. Since taking herbs for allergy “treating” may not be good for some other your conditions (and the herb may worsen the symptoms) or may interact with your allergy medicines. (The word “treating” is in brackets, because you cannot be cured from allergy, by this is meant “controlling your symptoms”).
Butterbur Roots. Its extract is used to treat intermittent hay fever (allergic rhinitis), which is as effective as a commonly used antihistamine. An extract can inhibit the synthesis of leukotrienes, which, along with histamine and other chemicals, are produced as part of the immune response to an allergen. In several studies people were given butterbur extract, the results showed that butterbur and fexofenadine (antihistamine) were equally effective and reduce allergy symptoms.
Chamomile. The herb has anti-anxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antispasmodic properties, what makes it very useful in treating respiratory allergies. Chamomile tea is used to reduce duration of hay fever attacks. Chamomile creams are used for compresses. Chamomile is good in treatment of asthma as well.
Eucalyptus. This is a traditional remedy for infections and hay fever. The herb is a powerful expectorant – clear nasal passages; and antiseptic – helpful for cold, flu and sore throats. The aromatic oil (contained in the leaves of this herb) applied to the skin as a chest or sinus rub is very useful in treatment of hay fever.
Licorice Root. Licorice Root has been historically used for treating asthma, colds, used to support inflammation of the skin, and other not related to the topic conditions. The root of this herb contains a saponin glycoside which has a similar structure to hormones produced by our adrenal glands. This component gives licorice an anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and anti-arthritic effect, plus without the side effects. Its anti-allergenic effect is very useful for allergic rhinitis (hay fever), conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma.
Ginger is the most widely used herbal remedy for respiratory allergies. Fresh ginger – to relieve dryness and heat, dried ginger – to relieve dampness and chill. Ginger warms the energy channels, reduces inflammation and is antimicrobial.
Another herb that has been used for centuries to treat allergies and asthma is Ephedra. Some compounds in this plant such as ephedrine, can relieve asthma but when used in this isolated form can also elevate blood pressure.
Ashwagandha. This herb is very popular in treating inflammation of all kinds, and allergy is always and inflammation. According to modern herbalism, Ashwagandha contains withaferin and withanolides, which are natural steroids and stablilize allergic reaction.
Ginkgo may decrease the body’s reactions to allergens.
Haridra. This is one of the most useful anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory herbs. People in India use it after common injuries to ease the pain and swelling, it may help in swellings of the tissues in case of allergies.
Another useful herb is Shirish. It removes accumulated toxins from our body and also relieves the entire physiologic system, which may help in allergies as well.
Peppermint oil is often advised for allergic reactions. It is applied on the throat, on the crown of the head (in case of headaches) and on back of the neck. Pine or spruce essential oil are deeply grounded and may be used to calm allergic reactions. A drop of these oils (individually) applied on the throat or over the thymus gland boosts the immune system, thus creating balance in the body’s energy field and making a big difference in allergy attacks.
One of the most effective remedies for allergies is a dashamoola tea Basti. The tea is an excellent help for wheezing, sneezing, dryness of the throat and dryness of the colon.
There are also some herbal formulas for treating allergies. One of the most helping is mix of Ashwagandha, Bala and Vidari (in equal proportion). The tea helps to soothe an extreme wheezing condition. Another one is a tea from Ginger or Licorice with 5 to 10 drops of mahanarayan oil (or 1/2 teaspoon of plain ghee). Helps very well.
Under the supervision of your health care provider you may use some of these methods. Don’t be alone in your fighting!