Wheezes and Sneezes - the Allergy Angle
Do you see the summer through a haze of tears, with a tissue box surgically attached to your hand and your nose emitting a persistent deluge of protesting gunge?
It’s not as if British summers are anything to be particularly joyous about, so it seems harsh that so many people should be doomed to react unfavourably at the first glint of the suns rays.
Then there are the unfortunates who react this way all year round, persistently snuffling and sneezing, sometimes without even knowing what it is they are reacting to. If you wake up every morning with an itchy nose, irritated eyes or catarrh blocking the back of your throat, you know where I’m coming from.
WHY, WHY, WHY?
What are the reasons behind this constant misery?
Those with full-blown allergies know all about them. If they eat a peanut, get stung by a bee, or come into contact with their particular poison, they react immediately and dramatically. In these cases the body cannot tolerate that substance at all, to the extent of threatening vital functions.
Also fairly obvious are the reactions to specific allergens such as pollen, thankfully restricted to a certain time of year and producing those well-known and loathed symptoms that are commonly lumped together under the heading ‘hayfever’.
Harder to pinpoint than allergies are ‘intolerances’, where a foodstuff or chemical does not cause immediate, abject misery but the body struggles to deal with it effectively and gradually symptoms build up and reduce overall health. Symptoms are frequently digestive: bloating, abdominal discomfort, constipation or diarrhoea. The mucous membranes are often involved though, with persistent catarrh being a common indication that all is not well, especially in the case of dairy intolerance, as dairy products are heavily mucus forming.
The delicate lining of the nasal passages is especially prone to irritation. The job of the nasal passages is to filter undesirable elements from the air we breathe in, to prevent them from harming us. Tiny hairs (or large, protruding hairs, depending on your age and sex!) trap particles that should not be entering the respiratory system, and mucus is produced to drown and expel undesirable substances. Once the mucous membranes have become inflamed, other substances begin to irritate them, and you react to all sorts of things that you are not specifically intolerant of: perfumes, cleaning products, pet hair, etc.
Thus, the person with an unsuspected dairy intolerance will be a martyr to a blocked or runny nose, itchy eyes, constant sneezing and general feeling of being below par.
- You may have black circles around your eyes, despite getting enough sleep.
- You may feel puffy and easily fall prey to colds.
- You may have very reactive skin, coming up in what looks like heat bumps at the slightest provocation.
- You may have a persistent sore throat or mild cough, or experience asthmatic wheezing.
The skin reactions mentioned are frequently caused by the beleaguered immune system producing large quantities of a chemical called histamine, which causes the skin to come up in red, itchy bumps, as if you have walked into a patch of stinging nettles. This reaction is intensified if you are stressed.
To improve your health you need to
- reduce the strain on your mucous membranes
- strengthen your immune system
- reduce the amount of histamine floating about inside you
The worst offenders
Cut out or cut down on these products to alleviate the strain on your immune system and mucous membranes:
- Dairy products
- Artificial colourings and flavourings, and artificial sweeteners
Reduce your exposure to smoke – avoid smoky atmospheres and actively seek out non-smoking areas. Avoid drowning yourself in perfume. Think about your household cleaning products: do you spray your furniture with polish? How much of the bathroom spray-cleaner goes up your nose? Do you use air fresheners that are full of chemicals? Nice smelling sprays made from essential oils are now readily available from health stores, so there’s no reason to suffer or to be reduced to stinking.
Echinacea may figure largely in the ‘cold and flu remedy’ department, but think a minute – it has far more uses than that. Echinacea helps the immune system to function more effectively, so if your immune system is wildly off line, reacting to everything in sight and creating that watery haze and tissue dependence referred to at the start of this article, you may find that several months’ work with a tincture of the fresh herb will calm things down.
Devil’s Claw, again as a tincture, can offer relief as well, reducing inflammation in the congested tissues, and balancing an overactive immune response.
Nettles (Urtica) are extremely helpful, especially if you have the high histamine levels indicated by sensitive skin and frequent ‘prickly heat’ type symptoms. Nettles reduce histamine levels and act as a blood tonic.
Vitamin C is another good, natural antihistamine with none of the adverse effects of conventional antihistamine medication. Take a low dose (100-200mg) of vitamin C regularly throughout the day, especially if you are going to be exposed to pollutants such as smoke or car fumes, or if you are going to be near plants or animals that you know will set you off.
A tincture of tropical herbs including Sponge Cucumber (Luffa operculata) is suitable for hayfever sufferers be they adults, children, people on other medication, etc., etc.. It is totally safe and can be taken for as long or short a time as you like. It is best taken in tincture form, as it works very quickly this way. Why are you taking it? Because it wipes out the symptoms most commonly suffered: runny or blocked nose, itchy streaming eyes, bronchial congestion, irritation in the throat, sneezing and skin redness. Now doesn’t that just sound like magic? It will give you no side effects such as sleepiness and will not inhibit the performance of drivers, students or athletes.
If you are restricted as to whose houses you visit or which sports you take up because of your inability to tolerate animal hair, you may well find that this remedy changes your whole outlook. (Of course, if you are using your symptoms as a reason to avoid visiting certain people, ignore this whole article…) Try a herbal Nasal Spray: it moisturises the nasal mucosa and quickly dampens down the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Try these ideas and you may face the mornings in complete and happy ignorance of the whereabouts of the tissue box!