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Reacting the Wrong Way

Reacting the Wrong Way

in Overall Health by

Reacting the Wrong WayFor some reason, the incidence of allergies has risen dramatically in recent years. There are various theories as to why this is so, including that our immune systems are exposed to far less parasitic diseases and infections than in the past (with the use of medication and antibacterial cleaning products). This apparently leaves a part of our immune system with little to do, so it reacts to allergens. Other causes may include cigarette smoke, environmental pollution and far lower rates of breastfeeding.

What is an allergy?

Our immune system is designed to protect us, but some people have overly sensitive immune systems that react to substances that do not affect others. In such cases, the substances are called allergens and the reactions to them allergies. Approximately one third of Australians suffer from allergies.

What causes allergies?

The most common causes for allergies include:

  • Pollens
  • Dust mites
  • Animal hair
  • Moulds
  • Food
  • Insect stings

Allergy symptoms

An allergic reaction occurs when an allergic person comes into contact with an allergen which produces a reaction. Reactions can range from quite mild to severe and, in some cases, life threatening. A small number of people are at risk of anaphylaxis, a severe reaction most often caused by peanuts and shellfish. In these cases, sufferers need to have an action plan and carry an EpiPen around with them to counteract the reaction.

Common allergy symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Asthma
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Itchy eyes
  • Rashes
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

 

Allergies on the rise

For some reason, the incidence of allergies has risen dramatically in recent years. There are various theories as to why this is so, including that our immune systems are exposed to far less parasitic diseases and infections than in the past (with the use of medication and antibacterial cleaning products). This apparently leaves a part of our immune system with little to do, so it reacts to allergens. Other causes may include cigarette smoke, environmental pollution and far lower rates of breastfeeding.

Hay fever

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis affects one in five Australians, causing sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and headaches. While it most commonly occurs in spring, it can happen all year round with people reacting to pollens, dust mites, animal hair and mould.

A hay fever reaction occurs when the hairs in the nose trap dust, pollens and other particles that may be dangerous to the lungs. Some of the particles cause the immune system to react by releasing histamine. The lining of the nose then becomes sensitive and itchy, and mucous production is increased.

 

Hay fever treatment

There are many effective over-the-counter medications that can help to effectively manage hay fever and allergy symptoms.

  • Nasal corticosteroids can help to reduce nasal inflammation.
  • Antihistamines help to block histamine, the chemical released in an allergic reaction.
  • Decongestants help to reduce mucous levels and work well in combination with antihistamines.
  • Eye drops.
  • Immunotherapy may be recommended by your doctor. It involves being very slowly exposed to allergens by injection until your immune system builds tolerance to the substance.

Doing it naturally

There are many natural vitamin and herbal preparations that may help to improve the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. Seek professional advice from your health care provider and ask your pharmacist about drug interactions if you are using natural supplements in conjunction with drugs.

  • Horseradish and garlic can help to reduce mucous production and inflammation in the nasal passages.
  • Vitamin C may help to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
  • Vitamin A is essential for a healthy immune system and the maintenance of healthy mucous membranes.
Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned

For more information on treating allergies and seasonal ailments, visit The Bush Chemist, an Australian family-owned and operated online pharmacy.

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