“I have always had winter allergies, but they’ve become more severe over the years. I’ve tried a number of treatments that my doctor prescribed to me, but nothing seems to be working. One of the allergy medications even made me break out in hives. It seems like my system has stopped responding to all the medication. What do I do about these allergies!!”
What is an Allergy?
Allergy is an abnormal reaction or increased sensitivity of our body to certain substances in the environment. An allergic individual will produce some symptoms when exposed to these substances while they can be completely harmless to the non-allergic population. The main reason for this is that allergic people make a special type of antibody called immunoglobin E (IgE), which can react with these substances called allergens, in a harmful way.
The reaction between allergens and IgE antibodies cause the release of substances like histamine, which produces an allergic reaction. These allergic reactions or diseases may involve any part of the body; the most frequent being the nose and the chest with resultant symptoms of hay fever, or asthma. The skin and eyes also commonly show allergic symptoms.
Anaphylactic shock is a severe allergy, which affects many organs at the same time causing a rapid decrease in blood pressure, fainting and occasional death.
Allergy has two main types
You could have a Seasonal allergy to pollen (from trees and grass) in the form of hay fever when plant pollination begins in spring. Ragweed or Congress grass (Parthenium) are responsible for the majority of mid spring to early winter respiratory and skin allergies.
Perennial allergies are usually year-round problems. Common triggers for them include mold spores, pet dander (dead skin and hair/feather) and dust mite.
Cause of Winter Allergies
We often blame spike in sniffles during wintertime on the weather. Instead, the real cause might be something the forecast didn’t mention — the climate at home!
Step into your living room. It might look tidy, but microscopic dust particles collect in the carpeting and furniture. Take a closer look into your bathroom, it could be a haven for mold spores. To top it all, if you have a pet at home, don’t forget your furry friend. He may appear harmless, curled up by the fire, but could be causing you all the distress.
Winter allergies are a growing menace that are aggravated by spending too much time indoors. Indoor pollution can in fact get more damaging than what is outside, creating a havoc for your immune system. When the temperature drops and your furnace kicks on, it sends dust, mites, mold spores, and insect parts from the dark corners of your house into the air. They can get into your nose and launch a reaction.
Some common indoor allergy triggers are:
- Dust mites These microscopic bugs flourish in mattresses and bedding. When their droppings and remains become airborne, they can cause allergy symptoms.
- Mold This fungus thrives in damp, humid areas such as basements and shower ceilings or curtains in bathrooms. Rugs are another hot spot– a warm, humid spot for them. When these mold spores get into the air, they can trigger allergies.
- Animals Most people are not allergic to animal fur, but rather to a protein found in the pet dander, saliva, and urine.
Your genes have a definite role to play in your allergies.
Symptoms of Allergy
Symptoms of Hay fever caused by dust, pollen, or mold include:
- Nasal congestion with a watery/runny or a stuffed-up nose
- Redness of the nose
- Post nasal dropping
- Itchy, red and watery eyes
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Itching in the throat
Is it an allergy or a cold – the flu?
Since allergies develop when your immune system creates defensive antibodies in response to the allergens, they can linger for weeks or even months. A cold usually doesn’t last for more than 10 days. Also, colds and flu might have fever, aches and pains or purulent discharges which don’t usually happen with allergies.
Allergic symptoms in skin could be itching, redness, burning or dryness leading to eruptions like rashes/hives or eczema.
Allergic symptoms in eyes could be itching, redness, watering or a foreign body sensation.
Allergic symptoms in the respiratory tract can manifest in the form of cough, wheezing or shortness of breath, or a feeling of congestion and suffocation in the chest
Diagnosis of Allergy
Your Doctor may advise a few tests to detect your allergies:
Blood test– to detect the presence of IgE antibodies in the blood.
Skin patch test – scratching your skin with a tiny bit of an allergen, performed especially in cases of eczema.
Skin prick test – involves using a small needle to prick a drop of fluid containing a known allergen just under the surface of skin. If there is reaction, it means test is positive and if skin does not react in any way, this will indicate a negative result.
Available Treatment Options
The conventional form of treatment for all sorts of allergies, whether nasal or skin is antihistamines like Cetrizine/Levocitrizine or decongestants or a combination of both. They tend to provide temporary relief. You take an anti histaminic and you are fine for some hours. The sneezing and the running nose stop. The itching in the nose and eyes disappears. But the effect lasts only for some hours. Once the effect wears off, the problem returns in full force.
If these treatments do not work, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid nasal spray.
Immunotherapy (allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets) is the treatment for you if you fail to respond to any of these. It exposes your body to gradually bigger doses of the allergen. This approach can curb your symptoms for a longer period of time than allergy drugs.
I have had patients coming to me who had been taking these anti allergic medicines for years together. These anti histaminics are sleep inducing and often people tend to feel sleepy or dizzy during the daytime, which can get dangerous. The easy availability and low cost makes these anti allergic medicines easily accessible. In fact they have become sort of home remedies for allergies and people just keep popping them in without even a prescription from a qualified doctor.
Homoeopathy – The best alternative
Homoeopathy is best placed to treat all sorts of allergies. The reason for this is that it does not just treat the symptoms of the allergies, instead it works to root out their cause – hyperactivity of the immune system. These things may be harmless in themselves but the hyperactive immune system goes into an overdrive when it comes in contact with them. It looks at them as offenders and tries to react in a defensive manner. It tries to wash them off by producing excessive secretions. Homoeopathic medicines repair the immune system. The hyperactivity is corrected and the body starts reacting normally to the same things that used to cause the allergies.
Homoeopathy believes in a strong association between allergies, skin problems (such as eczema and hives) and asthma. It is best not to suppress the symptoms of the skin or mucous membranes since that can actually drive the process of irritation further into the system, creating conditions like asthma.
The aim of Homoeopathy is not only to treat allergy but also to address the underlying cause and individual susceptibility. There are ample of remedies like Galphimia glauca, Allium Cepa, Arsenicum Album, Arsenicum Iodatum, Arum Triphyllum and more, to help in hey fever and respiratory symptoms. Nux vomica is used to treat respiratory difficulties while boosting energy. Sabadilla, Sticta, Wyethia, Natrum Muriaticum etc. help sneezing fits, runny nose, and olfactory sensitivities, while Arundo and Euphrasia remedy itchy or gritty eyes. Nosodes like Influenzinun, Bacillinum, Medorrhinum, Psorinum in conjunction with constitutional medicines work on your genetic predispositions and individual susceptibilities to ultimately throw these tendencies out of your system.
Tame down your Winter Allergies
Follow these tips to minimize an allergic reaction this winter:
- Avoid what you are allergic to and keep indoor allergens to a minimum by mopping, sweeping, and dusting often.
- Throw out shower curtains, wallpaper, and carpeting that have molds.
- Replace carpet with wood or tile flooring.
- Wash showers and sinks with a solution containing 5% bleach and a little detergent to wipe-off most miscreants.
- To help control dust mites and mold, fix water leaks and use a dehumidifier/allow enough of sunlight in, to keep the humidity below 50%.
- Use of air filters/purifiers can clean dust from the air. Click Here to read more about them.
- Wash bedding in hot water (130 F) each week.
- Pet allergies can make living with these long-time companions intolerable. Prolonged exposure can lead to chronic inflammation and asthma. If parting is not an option, minimize cuddling, and ensure that they stay out of your bedroom at night.
- Wash your hands and face frequently to wash away allergens.When allergy symptoms are intense, take a shower; it removes allergens from your hair and encourages you to change the clothes that allergens may be clinging to. Bonus: The steam of a hot bath may relieve allergy symptoms like sinus congestion.
- Avoid cigarette smoke, car exhaust and alcohol as they inflame your bronchial tissues.
A healthy diet is equally important for keeping your immune system functioning well. For a natural allergy-fighting boost, choose a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C. Cranberries and clementines, during winter, are rich sources. Pump up you fluid intake, eat more water-rich fruits and veggies to avoid getting dehydrated. Sipping through hot drinks may relieve your congestion.
Make an effort to get out of the house. A breath of fresh air and some outdoor exercise are sure remedies. Whatever be the forecast, the climate outside will certainly offer relief.
IMPORTANT :: You’re not alone with winter allergies. Millions of people are allergy-prone year-round. If you aren’t getting the relief you require with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medication, may be its time for a Homoeopathic Consultation.