Allergy is a condition of overreaction of the immune system in certain individuals to some harmless substances. The word Allergy was coined by two paediatricians, an Austrian, Clemens Peter Freiherr von Pirquet and a Hungarian, Bela Schick from the Greek words allos meaning "other" and ergon meaning "reaction" to describe hypersensitivity reactions. The substance that causes allergic reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and at times rapid. While some people are sensitive to one particular allergen, others may be allergic to many substances. Allergic reactions are excessive activation of certain white blood cells called mast cells and basophils by a type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This results in an inflammatory response which can range from uncomfortable symptoms to life threatening situations. About one third of the population suffer from one or other form of allergy. Children are more affected by allergy. Asthma and rhinitis are the common respiratory allergies. Eczema, urticaria and atopic dermatitis are some of the common skin allergies. Risk factors for allergy can be placed in two general categories, namely host and environmental factors. Host factors include heredity, sex, race, and age, with heredity being the most significant. However, there have been recent increases in the incidence of allergic disorders that cannot be explained by genetic factors alone. Infectious diseases during early childhood, environmental pollution, allergen levels, and dietary changes are the major four reasons for major allergies. The common allergic disorders are asthma, allergic rhinitis, anaphylaxis, drug, food, insect allergy, eczema and urticaria. Approximately 20% to 30 % of total population in India suffers from at least one allergic disease. Out of this, about 15% develop Asthma. Urban children have higher prevalence with male predominance. About 4.5% of adolescents are allergic certain food items leading to asthma, rhinitis or both. Rice, citrus fruits, black gram and banana are major allergens. Biomass fuel increases the concentration of indoor air pollutants that may increase risk of asthma, rhinitis and upper respiratory tract infection in children.
The allergies are categorised either on the basis of the causative agents or the part of the body affected. Several food items cause allergic reactions. About 90% of food allergies are caused by cow's milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Pulses, rice, black gram, citrus fruits, banana, food addictives and preservatives are also found to cause food allergies in sensitive individuals. Milk-protein allergies are most common in children. Some people are unable to tolerate milk from goat, sheep or even cow and many are also unable to tolerate dairy products such as cheese. Lactose intolerance, a common reaction to milk, is not a form of allergy, but due to the absence of an enzyme in the digestive tract. Some people are allergic to tree nuts such as pistachios (pista), pine nuts (Chilgoza), and walnuts (akhrot). Also seeds, including sesame and poppy, contain oils in which protein is present, which may elicit allergic reaction. House dust, old papers, certain drugs, cat dander, dog dander, cockroaches, insects, pollen, molds and perfumes are also found to causes allergy. Exposure sun rays is found to be cause skin allergy on sensitive individuals. Based on the part affected, the allergies vary. One may have skin allergy (Rashes on the skin), eye allergy or respiratory allergies. Eczema, urticaria and atopic dermatitis are some of the common skin allergies. Asthma and rhinitis are the most common respiratory allergies. Biomass fuel such as cow dung and coal used in Chullah, especially in poor ventilated kitchens increases risk of asthma, rhinitis and upper respiratory tract infections. Such people are likely to suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). Latex is source of allergy, which trigger skin, respiratory and systemic reactions. The most problem is irritation or inflammation of skin leading to a condition called contact dermatitis. Sweating or rubbing the area under the glove aggravates the lesions, possibly leading to ulcerations. Those who are sensitive to latex may also be allergic to banana. These patients often develop itching sensation around and local urticarea.
Symptoms of allergy differ depending on the cause. The severity and appearance of the symptom depend on immunity, type and amount of exposure to the allergen. Irritation of nose, blocked or running nose and sneezing are the common nasal symptoms. Itching or irritation with watering and or redness of eyes is the common eye symptoms. In severe cases, there may be tightness of chest, often leading to breathing difficulty, mucus secretion, coughing and wheezing. Changes in the season, weather and place may trigger the allergic reaction. Allergic rhinitis is a common allergic problem in children. It causes running of nose, nasal blockade and difficulty to breath. Some of these children may have itching, watering of eyes and ear problems. Food allergy may cause tingling mouth, rashes in the body, swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat and even severe reaction called anaphylaxis, depending on the allergen. Diarrhoea, stomach pain, urticarial rashes or at times vomiting are found in mild allergies. Sometimes indigestion due to a disagreeable food is considered as allergy. Spoiled food or heavy food usually provokes indigestion irrespective of their immunity. Food allergy is the inability of certain individuals to some food items which is otherwise harmless to others. While spoiled egg may cause diarrhoea or vomiting due to indigestion, but who are allergic to egg gets a reaction after eating a small piece of cake with egg. The severity and onset of the symptom will depend on the host immunity, type and quantity of exposure of the allergen. In drug sensitivity, the host is sensitive and the reaction may be severe, sudden and even life threatening. This may cause hives, itchy skin, and rashes on the body, swelling of the face and wheezing. The body gets swollen, patient may get breathlessness and at times lead to respiratory distress. This is called anaphylaxis. The anaphylaxis symptoms usually occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen or at times may be delayed. Insect sting may cause swelling of the site, itching or hives all over your body with symptoms such as cough, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath and at times anaphylaxis. Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, may cause, sneezing, running nose, itching with redness and watering eyes, itching of the nose, eyes or roof of the mouth. Atopic dermatitis, an allergic skin condition also is called eczema, may cause skin to itch, redness, flake or peel of the skin layers. Most allergies interfere with sleep, intellectual functioning and recreational activities. Food allergy often leads to anxiety and fear of taking food from unknown places. Allergies are chronic conditions. This requires change in the lifestyle or even profession to avoid allergens.
Normally allergy is diagnosed based on the history of symptom after the exposure to an allergen. Specific diagnosis is done through measurement of Immunoglobulin’s. Immunoglobins are the antibodies produced by the white blood cells of our body.
A serious kind of reaction in allergies is known as anaphylaxis. During anaphylaxis skin reactions may occur with hives flushed or pale skin, a feeling of warmth, sensation of a lump in the throat, constriction of the airways and a swollen tongue or throat, which can cause wheezing and breathing trouble. At times there may be acute problems like weak or rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness or even fainting. This is a serious emergency which requires immediate medical attention.
Allergy is a disease, which if detected early, can be treated successfully to a great extent. The best option is to avoid the allergens that trigger the allergic reaction. At times even small quantity of an allergen could produce severe allergic response in sensitive individuals. As the individual response to an allergen is the important factor for the flare up of symptoms, more attention is needed on the sensitivity of the individual rather than the substance that cause the allergy. Symptoms of allergy can be controlled through antihistamines and corticosteroids. Both these medicines have their own limitations and benefits. Immunotherapy is another approach used to desensitize the people with specific allergen. This is a long continued process that could gradually desensitize people who are sensitive. Immunotherapy is a preventive treatment. It involves giving gradually increasing doses of the substance, or allergen, to which the person is allergic. The incremental increase in the allergen cause the immune system to become less sensitive to the substance, probably by causing production of a "blocking" antibody, which reduces the symptoms of allergy when the substances is encountered in the future. Immunotherapy also reduces the inflammation in cases of rhinitis and asthma. Before starting treatment, the physician and patient should identify trigger factors for allergy symptoms. Immunotherapy is usually recommended only if the person seems to be selectively sensitive to several allergens.
HOMEOPATHIC APPROACH Homeopathic treatment is directed to enhancing the immunity of the individual through constitutional treatment. In this, the objective of the physician is to eradicate the sensitivity of the individual to the allergen. This approach is very much beneficial to the patient, but often time consuming and needs expertise. There are Homeopathic medicines that provide relief to the disturbing symptoms through acute management. The constitutional approach refers to the treatment of a person as a whole. A well selected constitutional remedy provides a profound healing response. This approach is extremely effective in treating chronic and long-term health problems. The constitutional treatment strengthens the body’s immune mechanism, promotes the individuals health and prevents future relapses. In this approach, a holistic profiling of the individual is carried out through detailed case history taking in to consideration the person’s physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects. Thereafter, a most suitable homeopathic remedy is given, to the individual, which is called similimum. This treatment enhances the immunity of the individual and often promotes good health. The commonly used medicines in hay fever are Allium cepa, Euphrasia, Arsenic album, Sabadilla and Pothos fetida. These medicines are quite useful and preferable because they are safe, gentle and have no harmful side effects. Urticaria is another common allergic reaction treated successfully with homeopathic medicine. Patients complain of localized or wide spread eruption accompanied by severe itching. Urticaria is considered in Homeopathy as a condition with multi miasmatic trait. In case of an acute urticaria, medicines like Apis meffifica, Natrum muriaticum, Bovista and Urtica urens are commonly used for treatment. Reference: Muzumdar Dr K.P, Homeopathy Its Fundamentals and Treatment However, it is always suggested to take the expert advice of your Homeopath before making efforts to try self medication in cases like Allergy. Many pharmaceuticals are bringing out certain specific remedies for specific allergies. These have limited role in controlling symptoms rather than curing the problem.