An allergic reaction happens when the body’s immune system reacts to something that it is abnormally sensitive to. In many cases the substance (allergen) causing the allergy is quite harmless, like pollen or dairy products, but for some reason the body recognises it as being foreign and wants to protect the body from it. The body does this by triggering the immune response and as a result chemicals such as histamines and mast cells are released into the blood stream. It is these chemicals that cause allergic diseases such as hay fever, asthma, skin allergies and diarrhoea.

Seasonal allergies are common and occur only at certain times of the year, especially in spring and summer when there are a lot of pollens and grasses about. These allergies mainly affect the nose and eyes causing allergic rhinitis (runny nose) and itchy, red eyes.

Perennial allergies (those that occur all year round) come from things like house dust mite, animal hair or feathers, and chemical and industrial pollutants. Almost any food can bring on an allergic reaction, but the main culprits are milk, eggs, nuts and shell fish.

Although most allergic reactions are not life threatening, the symptoms that they present with can greatly impact on our quality of life, so we need to address them as far as possible. Obviously the best way is by avoiding what we know causes the problem: keep pets outside, stay away from open grassy spaces, especially at night when there is more pollen around; and use fibre filled, and not duck down, pillows.

Sometimes avoidance is impossible, and all this leaves us with, is to treat the symptoms. Most allergies are easily treated with antihistamines, which work very well in relieving classic symptoms of runny nose, itchy eyes and skin rashs. Antihistamines have been well known for causing drowsiness and should not be used when driving, using dangerous machinery, or together with alcohol. However the new generation antihistamines such as loratadine and cetirizine significantly lack sedative side effects and can be taken daily, chronically (right through the hay fever season), to reduce annoying symptoms.

Nasal preparations containing steroids can help enormously because cortisone inhibits the allergic response and reduces the amount of mucous produced by the body. Because these preparations prevent rather than cure, they should be used on a daily basis, and not just when symptoms present.

Decongestant nose sprays can work really quickly and effectively to dry up a very stuffy nose, but can only be used for a short period of time as overuse will actually worsen the condition.

For classic red and itchy allergy eyes, eye drops containing antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers can give a lot of relief, especially in conjunction with oral medication.

Alternative medications are very popular in treating hay fever, especially as they do not cause drowsiness. They contain a variety of natural ingredients known to relieve allergic conditions and may include such things as:
Nettle leaf extract: Relieves the symptoms of sneezing and itching eyes and throat.
Quercetin: Works by inhibiting enzymes that cause allergic reactions.
Fenugreek: Expels mucous from the respiratory system
Boswellia: Reduces inflamed tissues

Like any problem that affects our immune system, our general state of health and wellbeing will have a great impact on the severity of the allergic attack, so eating sensibly, relaxing and taking care of ourselves is not to be overlooked!

Mr M discusses side effects of cold and cough preparations:

For the reason that there are such a variety of cold and cough preparations on the market, many of which are advertised in various popular media, it is essential that the public be aware of the potential negative side effects of many of these items.

First and foremost, children under the age of 12 years are restricted to medicines which are available to their specific age group. Because a particular medicine is registered for adult use DOES NOT mean that the dose could be halved or otherwise for children. Special ranges of medicines are specifically manufactured / registered for children’s use.

It goes without saying that patients with particular illnesses who are taking medication should be ultra cautious and seek advice from a pharmacist or other suitably qualified persons before adding what appears to be harmless, over the counter substances to their existing medication regime.

Pregnant women are fortunately usually aware of their circumstances and are naturally protective toward their babies. Many patients with blood pressure are either unaware of their condition or when self-medicating lose sight of the fact that their condition could be exacerbated by substances contained which would elevate their blood pressure. Diabetics should stay clear of medication containing certain substances (sugar and or alcohol).

As has been stated in previous articles, MANY cold and ‘flu’ medications, as well as preparations for headaches and pain, cause drowsiness and in combination with each other or alcohol could increase the chance of untoward reactions due to side effects.

Having said this, this article also serves to inform the reader that many options are available to hypertension sufferers, diabetics and pregnant women as well as most categories of individuals.

Many of the products compliant with the above are available at M-KEM’s 24 hour Dispensary and Complementary Health departments for example Prospan for coughs and Sinupret for colds and sinus symptoms.

Please note: Screening for Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Blood Sugar is available at M-KEM’s Diagnostic Clinic.

Sincerely Mr M (Hylton Mallach)