Coping With Allergies
Copeing with allergies isn't impossible. Here are some practical tips to provide allergy sufferers with with alternatives to a condition where medical treatment is often not very helpful.
If you are one of millions of allergy sufferers, you probably know that there is no single miracle cure to provide relief. Allergies, in their many different forms, may have a profound impact on one¡¦s lifestyle and health if left untreated. Some sufferers compare them to having a chronic flu, while others consider them to be as physically disabling as a serious disease. The factors that need to be considered in any treatment strategy vary according to type of allergy and your own personal ability to cope with it.
Allergies come in two major categories; environmental or systemic in nature, and many people suffer from both. Those who are sensitive to environmental allergens may notice that symptoms worsen in seasonal cycles. Some irritants are found more in the winter; including dust, mold, and pet dander, while others like pollen are predominant during warmer weather. Many allergens are present year round, including most chemicals and aerosols. Systemic allergens are usually related to food, medicine or other types of digested items. Most people do not realize that they have this type of allergy until they have been unsuccessfully tested for other medical conditions. A common myth about systemic allergies is that they only cause rashes or hives. Contrarily, symptoms may range from sinus problems to skin irritations to digestive complaints. They can wreak havoc in many body organs, and may result in serious life-threatening reactions. Both categories of allergies are capable of limiting one¡¦s quality of life as well as causing physical damage to the body. This damage is not limited to stress upon organs, autoimmune disorders, chemical imbalances, anaphylactic reactions, and secondary infections and conditions. Regardless of allergy type, it is imperative to keep your body functioning properly to avoid further complications.
This means you must first find out exactly what your symptoms are and what causes them. Although not always accurate, allergy testing can be a good starting point. This is done either by a scratch test where different allergens are introduced through scratches on the back or RAST testing where blood is taken and mixed with allergens. It¡¦s expensive, but it gives you a starting point to work from as the allergens you test positive for can be immediately checked out by elimination or modification, and reintroduction of suspects. You will eliminate foods, one at a time for about two weeks while keeping a diary of what you ingest each day and what your symptoms are for that day. On the third week, you continue the diary while reintroducing a lot of the suspected food while noting any differences in symptoms. After checking out those for which you test positive, it is important to check other items you ingest on a regular basis or in large amounts. While doing this, you need to beware of pre-packaged items that often include ingredients you are trying to avoid, and many of these are hidden on label with unrecognized names. For example: milk is found in casein and whey and egg is found in lecithin and albumin. Your best bet is to make it homemade. You should also check for unwanted ingredients in medications. Eliminating environmental allergens is not always possible, so you may try to modify your exposure to them. If you have pets, keep at least one room in the house (preferably your bedroom) off-limits to them. This is your allergy safe-haven, which should be kept clean and free of dust, perfumes, powders, sprayed products etc. Having a HEPA filtered air cleaner, or at least an air conditioner in there is definitely a plus. Make daily notes in your diary about your daily activities and symptoms to see if there is any correlation between them, such as sneezing when you play with the cat or immediately upon walking out the door into your yard. Once you know what you are fighting, the battle is halfway over!
How you deal with your allergies can make the difference between feeling good and giving up. Traditionally, doctors are used to giving antihistimines, decongestants, nasal sprays, inhalers and other drugs to counteract symptoms. Sometimes they can give injections to provide temporary immunity to environmental allergens. They will also suggest that you do things like putting plastic coverings on your pillows and mattresses, get rid of pets and remove your carpets. To many of us, this is not only too invasive but it is also very expensive. It¡¦s no wonder sufferers are trying alternative therapies such as acupunture, hypnosis, and herbal supplements in record-breaking numbers. But these can also be expensive and may even aggravate allergies more. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of traditional medical professionals is their lack of concern for the patient¡¦s dilemma of treatment versus cost. Many leave the doctor¡¦s office feeling as though the impact allergies have upon their lives are not being taken seriously. Similarly, we fear that nobody is concerned about the long-term effects upon our bodies. If only the medical field was aware of how it affects our own ability to cope with and accept our condition! That alone could help us to feel empowered to make the necessary lifestyle changes that we need to feel better.
If you are not one of those people lucky enough to have a caring doctor who takes the time to listen and provide supportive information, don¡¦t be discouraged. They do exist, and you will eventually find the perfect one! In the meantime, there are some practical tips that could make your life more tolerable:
„h Plan each day with a counter-attack method in mind. If you¡¦re going hiking on Saturday, take Benadryl Sunday night, take a calamine lotion bath and mix up some nasal saline solution to bring with you. The recipie is simple and inexpensive: 1 quart Distilled Water, 1 tsp. Salt, and 1 tsp. Baking Soda. You may use a bulb syringe to squeeze it in one nostril, letting it run out the other.
„h Eat sensibly. You really should avoid those pre-packaged foods or at least limit your intake of them. The neat thing I discovered from being allergic to several different foods was how to become an incredibly good cook! My chocolate cake made without egg or milk always receives rave reviews from others.
„h Learn to read labels. This is one inconvenience you just can¡¦t get around. If you have systemic allergies, you have to know what the names of the ingredients mean. If you have environmental allergies, it is important to know what fabrics to avoid before you purchase clothing, carpeting, or furniture and how to clean using natural solutions.
„h Allow yourself a couple of ¡§cheat days¡¨ per month where you can indulge in the forbidden while using an antihistimine if you know you can get away with it without general anaphylaxis (breathing difficulty, swollen throat or tongue, nausea, muscle weakness, pain or swelling, general malaise). Of course you must plan these days ahead of time and secure your doctor¡¦s blessing to do so!
„h Keep your home very simplistic. In other words, keep items that attract dust in a single room (preferably NOT the living room), don¡¦t collect stuffed animals, and don¡¦t fill your home with clutter that is difficult to clean around.
„h When you feel your symptoms getting worse, begin recording in your diary again to check on possible irritants and try to spend some extra time in your ¡§safe-haven¡¨ for the next couple of days.
„h Talk to those around you including friends, family and co-workers about what makes you feel better or worse. Sometimes you can enlist their support by offering incentives. For example, you may offer to do the laundry and dishes every day if someone else will do the vacuuming and dusting for you. (If that doesn¡¦t work try something a bit more enticing, such as buying tickets to a favorite event). You may stash your own cleaning materials in the office or tell the cleaners how much safer natural solutions can be for their own health. You will just have to experiment very carefully in order not to insult them or ask for seemingly unreasonable requests.
„h Network with other allergy sufferers for helpful suggestions and support. The internet has an abundance of resources available including allergy web sites with research material, special-interest links, forums and chats. Remember, it is important to encourage others to feel encouraged, as well as to vent your frustrations at times.
As the number of allergy sufferers continues to multiply, there will definitely be more research done to find their causes and better treatment and prevention methods. Until then, we must be vigilant in keeping our systems in good shape. It takes a lot of effort at times, but if we don¡¦t take on the responsibility, neither will anybody else.