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Allergy Season Is Upon Us
action to control your allergies. Breathe easy by learning more about
how to manage symptoms. According to research or other evidence, the
following self-care steps may be helpful:
- Clean it up. Control household allergens like dust, mold, and animal dander to reduce your overall allergic load.
- Help children avoid allergies with beneficial bacteria.
Take a probiotic supplement containing high-potency beneficial bacteria
(probiotics) during pregnancy and give them to newborns to help reduce
the risk of children developing allergies.
- Watch what you eat. Work with a specialist in food sensitivities to see if certain foods are causing your allergies.
- See a healthcare provider. Find a professional to help you manage your allergies.
responses mounted by the immune system to a particular food, inhalant
(airborne substance), or chemical. In popular terminology, the terms
"allergies" and "sensitivities" are often used to mean the same thing,
although many sensitivities are not true allergies. The term
"sensitivity" is general and may include true allergies, reactions that
do not affect the immune system (and therefore are not technically
allergies), and reactions for which the cause has yet to be determined.
Some non-allergic types of sensitivity are called intolerances and
may be caused by toxins, enzyme inadequacies, drug-like chemical
reactions, psychological associations, and other mechanisms. Examples
of well-understood intolerances are lactose intolerance and
phenylketonuria. Environmental sensitivity or intolerance are terms
sometimes used for reactions to chemicals found either indoors or
outdoors in food, water, medications, cosmetics, perfumes, textiles,
building materials, and plastics. Detecting allergies and other
sensitivities and then eliminating or reducing exposure to the sources
is often a time-consuming and challenging task that is difficult to
undertake without the assistance of an expert.
What are the symptoms?
symptoms may include itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; headache; fatigue;
postnasal drip; runny, stuffy, or itchy nose; sore throat; dark circles
under the eyes; an itchy feeling in the mouth or throat; abdominal
pain; diarrhea; and the appearance of an itchy, red skin rash.
Life-threatening allergic reactions—most commonly to peanuts, nuts,
shellfish, and some drugs—are uncommon. When they do occur, initial
symptoms may include trouble breathing and difficulty swallowing.
Dietary changes that may be helpful
A low-allergen diet, also known as an elimination diet or a
hypoallergenic diet is often recommended to people with suspected food
allergies to find out if avoiding foods that commonly trigger allergies
will provide relief from symptoms. This diet eliminates foods and food
additives considered to be common allergens, such as wheat, dairy,
eggs, corn, soy, citrus fruits, nuts, peanuts, tomatoes, food coloring
and preservatives, coffee, and chocolate. Some popular books offer
guidance to people who want to attempt this type of diet. The
low-allergen diet is not a treatment for people with food allergies,
however. Rather, it is a diagnostic tool used to help discover which
foods a person is sensitive to. It is maintained only until a reaction
to a food or foods has been diagnosed or ruled out. Once food reactions
have been identified, only those foods that are causing a reaction are
subsequently avoided; all other foods that had previously been eaten
are once again added to the diet. While individual recommendations
regarding how long a low-allergen diet should be adhered to vary from
five days to three weeks, many nutritionally oriented doctors believe
that a two-week trial is generally sufficient for the purpose of
diagnosing food reactions.
Strict avoidance of allergenic foods for a period of time (usually
months or years) sometimes results in the foods no longer causing
allergic reactions. Restrictive elimination diets and food
reintroduction should be supervised by a qualified healthcare
Lifestyle changes that may be helpful
People with inhalant allergies are often advised to reduce exposure to
common household allergens like dust, mold, and animal dander, in the
hope that this will reduce symptoms even if other, non-household
allergens cannot be avoided. Strategies include removing carpets,
frequent cleaning and vacuuming, using special air filters in the home
heating system, choosing allergen-reducing bed and pillow coverings,
and limiting household pets’ access to sleeping areas.
allergies and sensitivities are typically advised to avoid exposure to
particular allergens, such as tree and grass pollens, dust mites,
molds, specific foods, latex, or environmental and household irritants.
Those who have experienced severe reactions should wear a medical alert
tag listing their allergens.
Vitamins that may be helpful
may be important in the control of food allergies because of their
ability to improve digestion, by helping the intestinal tract control
the absorption of food allergens and/or by changing immune system
responses to foods. One group of researchers has reported using
probiotics to successfully treat infants with food allergies in two
trials: a double-blind trial using Lactobacillus GG bacteria in infant
formula, and a preliminary trial giving the same bacteria to nursing
mothers. Probiotics may also be important in non-allergy types of food
intolerance caused by imbalances in the normal intestinal flora.
Thymomodulin is a special preparation of the thymus
gland of calves. In a double-blind study of allergic children who had
successfully completed an elimination diet, 120 mg per day of
thymomodulin prevented allergic skin reactions to food and lowered
blood levels of antibodies associated with those foods. These results
confirmed similar findings in an earlier, controlled trial.
Holistic approaches that may be helpful
may be helpful in the treatment of some types of allergy. Studies of
mice treated with acupuncture provide evidence of an anti-allergic
effect with results similar to treatment with corticosteroids
(cortisone-like drugs). A preliminary trial found a significant
decrease in allergy symptoms following acupuncture treatment. It was
found that the decline in symptoms coincided with a decline in
laboratory measures of allergy. Relief persisted for two months
following the treatment. Other preliminary trials have also
demonstrated positive results. One controlled trial reported a
reduction in allergic complaints following acupuncture treatment, but
the results were not statistically significant. In the future,
controlled trials with larger numbers of subjects may help to determine
conclusively whether allergies can be successfully treated with
Treatment of food allergy using very small but
increasing daily doses of actual foods has been reported, and in one
controlled trial 12 of 14 patients successfully completed the program
and could tolerate previously allergenic foods.
Talk to your doctor about desensitization programs (treatments that
introduce an allergenic substance in small amounts until a person
builds up a tolerance to them). While none of these approaches has been
unequivocally proven, several show promise that people with allergies
may be treatable by means other than simple avoidance of the offending
food or inhalant substance.
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