Hay Fever, or more correctly termed, allergic rhinitis, refers to an allergic reaction (to different substances) which causes irritation of the nose, sneezing, nasal congestion and eye irritation. These symptoms can look like the common cold, however, hay fever is caused by an airborne substance such as pollen, while the common cold is caused by a virus. In essence, hay fever is an abnormal response (exaggerated immune response), to an otherwise normal substance.
Seasonal hay fever:
This occurs only during a specific time of the year, with change of the season when specific plants pollinate. Common allergens include:
· Tree pollens
· Weed pollens
Perennial hay fever:
This occurs all year round. Common allergens include:
· House dust mites
· Feathers (pillow and duvet)
· House hold pets
The Pathology of Hay Fever
So what causes hay fever? Non harmful airborne substances, such as pollen, causes an abnormal immune response (your body perceives this substance as harmful). In an attempt to contain this perceived threat, your body mounts an immune response in the form of immunoglobulin E production, which in turn releases histamine. The lining of your nasal passages become inflamed, in an attempt to trap and expel the allergen, so the allergen cannot enter your nasal passages. This results in the symptoms associated with hay fever. These include:
· Nasal congestion
· Catarrh (runny watery nose)
· Watery eyes
· Dark circles under the eyes
· Itchy nose and palate
· Tiredness (fatigue)
Who is at risk of developing Hay Fever?
There are various risk factors at play, some of these include babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke during their first year of life, family history of allergies, and personal history of allergies. Individuals who suffer from asthma have a higher risk of developing hay fever. Age is also a factor, where children and adolescents are more likely to suffer from hay fever, with a few outgrowing it in later years.
Leaky Gut Syndrome and Allergies
What is leaky gut syndrome? Let us refer back to basic anatomy. The lining of your intestines is covered by finger like projections called villi. The function of the villi is to increase the absorption area. To control what substances cross the villi (we want to keep out the pathogens, parasites and larger molecules, yet absorb the nutrients we require), there are tight junctions between the epithelial cells covering the villi. When these tight junctions become compromised (for reasons yet to be discussed), larger than usual molecules are absorbed through the gut lining. When these large molecules enter the blood stream, our body sees it as a foreign object and mounts an immune response. It is this reaction that causes the inflammation associated with leaky gut syndrome, which is associated with autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), type 1 diabetes, autism, allergies, ADHD and asthma to name a few. Leaky gut syndrome has a whole host of causes, and we shall only name a few:
· Medication: this includes antibiotics, painkiller and non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs.
· Gut dysbiosis: an overgrowth of bad bacteria
· Food allergies and intolerances: when large protein molecules escape through the tight junctions, you are likely to develop an immune response to said food, so the next time you consume said food, you are likely to have a reaction.
· Stress: when blood supply is redirected away from the gut during a fight and flight response, your digestion comes to a standstill.
Blood test: Identifies the presence of the allergy marker IgE in the bloodstream.
Skin prick test: This test can help identify specific substances that an individual might be sensitive too.
Treatment of Allergies
Treatment is multiform.
1. Identify airborne allergens as to avoid these substances where possible.
2. Identify food allergens, an elimination diet is usually the best protocol to successfully identify and eliminate food allergens.
3. Repair a leaky gut. This is essential, especially if it is the root cause of your allergies.
4. Isopathy: This is a homeopathic preparation of a substance that causes an allergic reaction. For example, if you identify your cat as being the culprit, we prepare a remedy made from cat hair or saliva in accordance with homeopathic principles, to be given back to the patient, in an attempt to desensitise the patient to said allergen. Thus preventing the over exaggerated immune response to your beloved pet.
5. Homeopathic remedies: Allows us to identify a remedy with a similar symptom picture as the patient, so treatment is patient specific.
6. Nose spay: This includes sprays prepared homoeopathically, as well as prebiotic nose spray, which alleviates hay fever symptoms.
Dr. Marike de Klerk