Preparing For Allergy & Pollen Season with Symptoms like: Asthma, Eczema, and Rashes are never fun. We’ve got some great Statistics to share as well as Respiratory System & Immune System info to help you beat it!
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Every year, allergies cause untold suffering, incredible medical expense, and uncounted lost days from both work and school. Accurate statistics on the financial and social impact are impossible to gather, because that type of information is only compiled for “life-threatening” diseases. For that reason, major medical websites and journals contain conflicting statistics.
Allergic Disorders attack the respiratory and digestive systems, and occasionally the skin. The best-known allergies are asthma, hay fever, and eczema. Symptoms are triggered by exposure to harmless substances, such as pollen or various foods. Skin sensitivities may develop from repeated contact with a growing list of chemicals and fragrances.
What are Allergies?
Allergies are the result of inappropriate immune responses to normally harmless substances. The key insight from this statement is that allergic reactions typically represent malfunction of the immune system.
Allergic responses vary widely, from the mild, sneezing, watery eyes and nasal congestion of “hay fever” to more severe rashes and swelling, to the most extreme and terrifying reaction: anaphylactic shock.
Background Info on Allergies
The Immune System – which includes antibodies, white blood cells, mast cells, complement proteins and other substances – defends the body against foreign invaders (referred to as antigens). However, in susceptible individuals, the immune system can overreact to certain types of antigens (called allergens), which are usually harmless to most people. The result is an allergic reaction. Some people are allergic to only one substance; others are allergic to many. It is estimated that one third of the people in United States have some form of allergy.
It’s estimated that more than 20 million Americans suffer from Asthma. Asthma is also very closely linked to allergies. Allergy induced asthma is the most common form of asthma in the United States; in fact, 60% of people with asthma have the allergic type.
Even more disturbing, the incidence of asthma in children has nearly quadrupled in the last 30 years. Adult an childhood asthma have increased from approximately 6.7 million cases in 1980, to 17.3 million cases in 1998, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly one in 13 children in the United States has asthma, and this percentage is growing faster in preschool-age children than in any other category.
Hay fever is the most common form of allergy, affecting about 30% of the population. Starting with the pollen season, tens of millions of Americans suffer between April and late Fall, while they consume more than $6 BILLION dollars of antihistamine and corticosteroid nasal sprays.
The FDA recall of children’s decongestant is a potent reminder that the pharmaceutical management of colds and allergies involves risk and unpredictable results.
Medscape.com is the medical reporting arm of the highly esteemed WebMD website. Medscape’s recent review of the FDA warning stated that these children’s products have “not been shown to be safe or effective”. They go on to say that: OTC cough and cold preparations commonly include nasal decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressants and expectorants. These drugs can cause serious and potentially life-threatening adverse events in young children, according to an alert sent from MedWatch, the FDA’s safety information and adverse event reporting program. Death, convulsion, rapid heart rates and decreased levels of consciousness have been reported.
Our Immune System
Before reviewing a natural and safe approach to allergy prevention and management, let’s discuss the immune cells that are involved with allergic reactions, and ponder why they over-react to harmless particles in our environment. The humoral (or blood-based) immune system contains numerous specialized cell lines, and they choreograph an amazing array of chemical reactions. Five-credit college classes in immunology barely scratch the surface of that complexity. To make this process more accessible, let’s use the simple analogy of the judicial system to outline the activities of each immune cell agent.
The first cells called to the scene of any allergic response are the Macrophages. They are like our neighborhood Policeman, roaming the “streets” of your body, investigating everything they come in contact with. When they detect an invader, like a virus or bacteria (antigen), they signal the T-cells for assistance.
T-Cells are the Detectives of the body. They determine if the antigen should be “arrested”. When and if they do, they signal the B-Cells, who play the part of the Prosecuting Attorney.
The B-Cell “prepares their case,” by producing specialized proteins called immunoglobins (Ig), which then attach to the antigens like handcuffs.
Once the antigen has been “found guilty” of the crime of infection, they are surrendered to the Mast Cells, who represent the Executioners of the body. They produce histamine, which destroys the “criminal” antigens by disrupting their cell membrane.
Once released, histamine causes airway constriction in the lung, over-production of mucous, and system-wide symptoms of pain, swelling and itching. Histamine also stimulates the increased release of stomach acid, and overproduction of the neurotransmitters that cause muscle spasm. That’s a lot of havoc in the body!
Tune in for our next article where we’ll define what causes Immune System dysfunction and specific steps you can take to build and support YOUR Immune System so it always performs at its best.