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Understanding Allergies

Fool the trigger on your allergy and get away with it

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What is an allergy? Is it different from hay fever?

An allergy is something that happens when your immune system reacts to a particular substance found in your environment. For most of the people around you, this substance (known as an allergen or trigger) is harmless. Common examples of allergens include pollen, dust mites, moulds, medications, and certain foods.

If you have an inherited (or genetic) tendency to develop allergic diseases, you are medically termed to have atopy (hence you’re an atopic person). This just means that you have increased chances of developing allergic diseases like allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, and asthma. The common term for allergic rhinitis is hay fever. Hay fever is a form of allergy.

Your body’s response to an allergen is called an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can include inflammation, swelling, and redness. This depends on which part of your body is affected by the allergic reaction.

The inflammation can show up and affect you in the following areas (*most allergic reactions happening in your body are localised and confined to one or two organs).

There are times when an allergic reaction becomes generalised, meaning several systems in your body are involved like eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and digestive system. It’s a medical emergency called anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). Call for medical help when this happens.

Who is vulnerable?

New Zealand and Australia have one of the highest prevalence of allergic diseases among the developed nations. Most people aren’t concerned about it until they symptoms during allergy season. Below are some statistics regarding these allergic diseases in New Zealand and Australia:

Allergic DiseaseApproximate Number of Cases
Asthma1 out of 10 adults
1 out of 5 children
Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)2 out of 5 adults
1 out of 6 – 10 children
Atopic Dermatitis (eczema)1 out of 14 adults
1 out of 6 -10 children
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Of course, let’s not forget about the various food and insect sting allergies. They may not be common, but they do happen. It’s not only children who can have them, allergies can develop in adult too.

But remember what you’re allergic to may not be an allergen for another person. Each and every one of us can react differently to a potential allergen.

A special note regarding allergic rhinitis. There are two types of allergic rhinitis based on their timing:

  • Perennial rhinitis. This type of allergic rhinitis happens at any time or point of the year. That means the triggers are with you most of the time like your pet dog or dust mites.

  • Seasonal rhinitis. Symptoms of hay fever occur only at certain times of the year like spring. An example is pollen being blown into your surroundings.

Know your triggers

A trigger or allergen is something that starts the whole process of an allergic reaction in your body. If you know your triggers well, you can prevent an allergic reaction. Find the detective in you and learn what your own triggers are.

Practical Tips for How You Can Deal with Your Allergies

  1. Know your triggers. Once you’ve identified them, follow the advice listed below to avoid them:

    • Close your windows. When it’s windy outside, keep your windows closed to prevent pollen and other allergens from entering your home.

    • If you’re allergic to the pollen from the plants in your garden or around your house, replace them with others you’re not allergic to.

    • If your kid is allergic to animal dander, try a fish for a pet instead. If the problem persists (your kid nagging you for a pet), make him wash his hands after every playtime with his pet.

    • Change your clothes (the ones you wore outside) before going to bed. Wash bed covers and blankets frequently.

    • Do you know where your car’s cabin air filter is located? Ask your mechanic and have yours replaced regularly.

    • Keep the inside and outside of your home clean. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. Some of them can filter out as much as 99% of small particles. Air cleaners with HEPA filters also contribute in the elimination of triggers especially among asthmatics.

  2. Consider homeopathy for additional support during allergy season. Have a talk with a qualified homeopath. Some people find homeopathic remedies a lifesaver during allergy season.

  3. Try herbal supplements to aid your allergy. Choose from Baical skullcap, boswellia, eyebright, butterbur and rehmania. The active ingredient in the root of the Baical skullcap plant, baicalin, reduces inflammation experienced during an allergic reaction by reducing certain inflammatory mediators. Baical skullcap may also help to prevent food allergy reactions.

    Boswellia has been shown to help stabilise mast cells, while rehmania has inhibits histamine release. Eyebright is commonly used for hay fever and butterbur has been shown to be effective for asthma.

  4. Don’t forget these nutrients: vitamin C, Vitamin D, rutin, bromelain, and quercetin. All these nutrients make your immune system stronger. A stronger immune system can lessen the symptoms of your allergic reaction. Quercetin prevents certain immune cells (called mast cells) from releasing histamine, the biochemical culprit of your allergic reaction, while bromelain has natural anti-inflammatory actions.

  5. Omega-3 DHA & EPA: omega-3’s found in fish and algae oils are well known for their anti-inflammatory benefits so they make a good addition to your arsenal for helping to prevent allergic reactions.

The Bottom Line

Identifying the trigger to your allergy is the key to preventing an allergic reaction. Once you’ve identified the trigger, figure out ways to avoid encountering or prevent exposure to it. Hey, don’t just sit back after that, you may have more than one trigger. If you have difficulty identifying your trigger, schedule an appointment with your healthcare practitioner. Also, try out some of the natural supplements above to help prevent an allergy reaction and strengthen your immune system.

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