An allergy is created when the body’s immune system reacts to a substance as if it is a threat. This immune response produces antibodies which release chemicals into the body each time that substance is encountered. These chemicals cause an allergic reaction.
Any substance that triggers an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Some of the most common allergens include pollen, house dust mites, mould and pets. Less common allergens include nuts, fruit and latex.
Common allergic disorders include asthma, eczema and hay fever. Symptoms of an allergy can include sneezing, wheezing, coughing and skin rashes.
The nature of the symptoms depend on how you came into contact with the allergen. For example, you may experience problems with your airways if you breathe in pollen.
Allergy is widespread and affects approximately one in four people in the UK at some time in their lives. Each year the numbers are increasing by 5%, with around half of all those affected being children.
- An estimated 21 million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy (Mintel, 2010)
- By 2015 50% Europeans will suffer from an allergy (EFA, 2011)
- UK hospital admissions for food allergies have increased by 500% since 1990 (Gupta, 2007)
- The prevalence of diagnosed allergic rhinitis and eczema in children have both trebled over the last three decades (Gupta, 2007)
- 20% of the population are affected by allergic rhinitis (Allergy The Unmet Need, 2003)
- The number of sufferers from rhinitis has tripled in the last 20 years (Allergy The Unmet Need, 2003)
- Asthma, Rhinitis and Eczema have trebled in the last 20 years (Allergy The Unmet Need, 2003)
- 50% of children and young people have one or more allergy within the first 18 years of life (Journal of Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2009)
Tips for the Hayfever season
- Generally the pollen counts peak at between 9 a.m. and 12 midday. Then they lower until about 5 p.m. when they rise until about 7 p.m. Keep windows closed at peak times and take your walks in the afternoons.
- Shower regularly to wash off pollens… especially after walks and when coming home for the evening.
- To clear sinuses; Fill a bowl with hot water, put a towel over your head, then hold your face over the the steam and breathe. Add Eucylyptus oil for maximum cleansing.
- Hayfever can make you very tired whether you take medications or not. So make sure you get plenty of sleep.
- Like most things, hayfever is worse when we are stressed. Meditation, deep breathing and yoga will all help with symptoms. Lying on your bed in a dark room listening to your breathing can be a great replenisher.
- Reduce histamine levels by eating plenty of magnesium and methionine-rich foods. Good sources are sunflower seeds, nuts, oats and leafy greens.
- Eat cabbage, onions and apples regularly. These foods are good sources of quercetin, a natural antihistamine.
- Eat plenty of purple berries, such as blueberries, blackberries and elderberries, for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Try making a refreshing fruit smoothie with frozen blueberries, or add a spoonful of elderberry jam onto your morning cereal.
- Drink peppermint tea. Peppermint contains a substance called rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant that blocks production of allergy-producing leukotrienes.
- Ensure you’re getting plenty of immune-boosting nutrients. Vitamin B6 and zinc play an important role in balancing histamine levels and supporting the immune system.
- Increased sunlight in the summer results in higher levels of pollution in urban areas, causing the immune system to react. A good all-round antioxidant supplement can increase your resistance. Try one that includes vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc.
- Food intolerances can sometimes make symptoms worse. Try limiting common culprits such as wheat and dairy products for a couple of weeks to see if symptoms begin to improve.
- Omega-3 oils are one of nature’s best anti-inflammatory nutrients. Include oily fish in your diet at least twice weekly, and supplement with a good quality fish oil or flaxseed oil.
Tips to reduce allergies to dust mites
A female dust mite lays eggs every 3 weeks. It’s a substance in the faeces of dust mites that is the allergen.
- Regularly vacuum carpets and furniture
- Vacuum with a filter, and change vacuum bags outside
- Always dust with a damp cloth
- De-clutter so dust can’t hide: get rid of cushions and fussy light shades
- Keep clothes in wardrobes
- Wash pillows, sheets and children’s toys at 60 degrees C or above
- Keep dolls, teddies and other soft toys in a toy box
- Put soft toys in the freezer for a few hours every so often to kill dust mites
- Keep rooms well aired
- Cover mattresses with special allergy-friendly bed linen
- Replace carpets with lino or wood flooring, and curtains with blinds
Tips to reduce allergy to mould
- Use bleach to clean showers, window-sills, kitchens, basements and other areas where mould might grow, and then treat them with a mould inhibitor
- Clean out your guttering and external pipes to stop water seeping into your walls
Tips to reduce allergies to your pets
- Give your cat or dog their own area to eat and sleep, away from bedrooms and living rooms
- Try to brush and bathe them regularly
- Vacuum carpets and furniture frequently
Allergies and complementary Medicine
Complementary medicine has a long history of testing for allergies (Kinesiology) and treating symptoms. By relaxing the body and mind we can reduce our allergic reactions and engage our natural healing process. Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine are documented in reducing allergic reactions, whilst Massage, Shiatsu and Reflexology by relaxing the whole system can provide ongoing relief.