Asthma and allergic diseases, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), food allergy, and eczema, are common for all age groups in the United States. They are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Surprisingly, it is among the country’s most common, but overlooked, diseases.
An allergy attack occurs when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen, which could be something you eat, inhale into your lungs, or touch. An allergen is any chemical substance of non-microbial origin that triggers an immune response in your body. An immune response is when your immune system, thinking the allergen is a foreign invader, overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). The IgE molecules attach to mast cells, which are white blood cells that are part of the immune response and are plentiful in the lungs, skin, and linings of the nose and gastrointestinal tract. The next time a person is exposed to that allergen, these IgE-primed mast cells release powerful chemicals, which in turn cause the allergic reaction, commonly seen as itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies, however, they can be managed through proper treatment and prevention.
Some steps you can take today to help alleviate symptoms and prevent allergies from getting in the way of living your life include:
- Acupuncture is incredibly effective at helping mediate the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. In fact, in 2015 The American Academy of Otolaryngology’s Clinical Practice Guideline recommended acupuncture for patients with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) who were interested in nonpharmacological solutions. Acupuncture is recognized as an effective alternative to medical therapies, and is associated with a reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life for patients.
- Chinese herbal medicine, which is the pharmaceutical arm of acupuncture, is well known to help boost immunity naturally in order to prevent an allergic outbreak from occurring in the first place. Specifically, magnolia flower powder ( “Xin Yi San”) has been found to reduce nasal symptoms in patients with perennial allergic rhinitis (hay fever) due to its diverse immunomodulatory effects. This is far from the only Chinese medicine formula effective at treating allergies, so please be sure to speak with your Chinese Medicine practitioner about what formula would be right for you.
- Supplements such as Quercetin, which is a naturally occurring antioxidant, have been found to have an antihistamine effect, reducing allergic outbreak. Bromelain, which will oftentimes come with Quercetin, and is found in pineapples, is another well known anti-inflammatory said to be effective at treating respiratory distress.
When all else fails, don’t forget these two important tips:
- Wipe yourself down with a small towel when walking into the house. The reason being, that when we enter our homes, we’re bringing in small bits from the outside as well, which will exacerbate any allergic reaction.
- Neti pots are thought to be useful for allergy season for the same reasons – because you are clearing out any potential allergens, bacteria, or mucus that could lead to an allergic response.
Please note that anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include flushing, tingling of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or lips; light-headedness, and chest-tightness. If not treated, these can progress into seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, shock, and respiratory distress or even death. If you think you are experiencing any of these signs, call 911 immediately.