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Natural Treatment Options and Strategies for the Great Outdoors: Allergies and Hay Fever

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Hey there, Ready Nutrition Readers who are planning on backpacking, hiking, camping, or other outdoor activities!  This article is for you or any family members who may have problems with either allergies or hay fever.  I have outlined a bunch of information for you pertaining to the conditions, as well as outlining a few natural remedies and aids you may wish to explore to help you enjoy your outdoor adventures.  I hope that you will take this information and use it to plan your trip and gather any supplies you will need to make things a little easier on you.

Histamine reactions are a major part of type I hypersensitivity reactions, including asthma attacks.  Hypersensitivity is defined as an abnormal sensitivity to a stimulus of any kind.  Such abnormal sensitivities are bounded by antigens, defined as a protein or oligosaccharide marker on the surface of cells that identifies the cell as self or non-self; the type of cell is identified; the antigens then stimulate the production of antibodies by B-lymphocytes that will neutralize or destroy the cell if necessary; they stimulate cytotoxic responses.

Histamines

The histamine response is akin to a jigsaw puzzle in terms of illustration of function, albeit an oversimplification.  With an allergic reaction, the offending particle that causes it binds to a tissue receptor site.  This site is the source of the production of the process regarding immunoglobulin.  The resultant irritation on the skin stems from histamine production and the irritation of the affected tissue.

There are drugs that block these receptor-sites involved in producing histamine (basically the substance triggering the allergic response); these sites are known as H-1 (histamine) receptors.  The allergen (offending irritant) triggers the histamine production.  What the medications do is function as a tailor-made jigsaw puzzle piece.  They “fit” into the receptor site and block the production of histamine, thereby either preventing or minimizing the allergic response, and thus eliminating or lessening the hives.  Such drugs are known as antihistamines.

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The greatest rule to follow is to avoid any known allergens and particles that cause such problems.  One common medication that lowers the allergic reaction is Benadryl (diphenhydramine HCl); it functions by blocking the production of histamine as outlined.  Benadryl is available over-the-counter, and it is useful in many applications, such as bee stings and insect bites to severe allergic reactions. There are some natural ways to relieve the symptoms of these types of allergies. Read more here [3].

Autoantigens

Autoantigens are antigens on the body’s own cells, and foreign antigens are antigens on all other cells.  Over one-fifth of all Americans suffer at one time or another from an allergic reaction of some kind.  Allergies are defined as an immune response to a foreign antigen that results in inflammation and organ dysfunction.  These allergies can range from simple nuisances to life threatening emergencies.

The four methods of allergen reactions occur as follows:

  1. Inhalation [such as pollens or dust mites]
  2. Direct contact [as with poison oak or poison ivy]
  3. Ingestion [such as drugs or foods]
  4. Injection [with stinging insects or injectable drugs]

The most severe allergic reactions usually occur with stings from bees/wasps/hornets, penicillin product allergic reactions, radiological contact media reactions, and latex allergy sensitivities.  The immune system of the human body works in the following manner:  1) identification of the offending organism (pathogens), and 2) repelling the invasion with defensins.  When first contact with the allergen is made, the body’s immune system becomes “sensitized,” meaning it is initially activated by any foreign body holding “alien” antigens as outlined before.  I highly recommend picking up a bee sting first aid kit for you or any member of your family who is allergic to bee or hornet stings.

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Subsequent exposures or contacts then result in the full-blown allergic reaction and the binding of specific immunoglobulins (especially IgE) or the initiation of immune cells (including the mast cells, the basophils, and/or the T-cells).  All of these just mentioned are capable of releasing inflammatory chemicals, such as histamines, kinins, leukotrienes, and interleukins.  These inflammatory chemicals act on a local or a systemic level depending on the size and severity of the offending foreign antigen presence.  With the chemical release, the allergic symptoms are created, and these are as follows: nasal inflammation, production of mucous, watering eyes, itching, edema, rashes/patches, bronchospasm, stridor (a high-pitched grating sound heard when breathing occurs), and one or more progressing to shock.

The diagnosis needs a history of exposure and reactions.  Tests are conducted when the allergen is not obvious or apparent.  A skin-prick test can be conducted using specific allergens and then monitoring for a reaction.  Other tests can take the form of intradermal injections, blood tests, and bronchial provocation tests, all of which are fairly self-explanatory.  Only a physician with a laboratory on hand can accurately determine the exact allergen and prescribe appropriate treatment.

Natural Treatment Options for Allergy Sufferers

Some treatment procedures are as follows:  avoiding the allergen(s), antihistamine therapy, cromolyn, corticosteroid administration, and epinephrine.  For chronic management, injectable epinephrine can be provided for emergency outpatient first aid to treat for anaphylactic shock.  In cases such as this, the patient is counseled along with his/her family members what to do in an allergic emergency involving possible anaphylactic shock.

Hay Fever

Hay Fever can provoke allergic reactions but is different from allergies.  Hay Fever is defined as a seasonal illness marked by sneezing, sniffling, runny nose, and itchy or watery eyes, occurring in approximately 10-20% of the U.S. population; the malady is a Type I hypersensitivity reaction.  The body systems involved are the mucous membranes of the nose and the upper air passages.  Hay Fever is the most common manifestation of an inherited, or atopic allergy.  The affliction is also known as allergic rhinitis or pollinosis.

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The malady finds its most common forms of transmission in airborne pollens, common dust, spores (produced by funguses), dust from hay and straw, and dust mites (a common household pest almost impossible to see with the naked eye).  Pollen itself is worth mentioning here, simply because most people hear the word but are really not aware of what it is.  Pollen grains are the microspores of flora that constitute (with further development) the male gametes of plants.  These grains are transferred by wind, by insects (bees and butterflies, for example), from one plant to another for reproduction.

Many of the airborne pollens (the ones that simply drift with the wind) are allergens.  In the springtime, the most common forms of pollen causing hay fever originate with trees.  In the fall, the pollen is produced from wildflowers; one example is ragweed.  One of the problems with hay fever is to determine the exact causative agent (a particular type of pollen or dust, for example); this can usually only be solved by a lab and tests.

Natural Hay Fever  Treatment Options

Treatment involves the prescription and use of seasonal antihistamines, cromolyn, and corticosteroids in the form of nasal sprays.  Also helpful are HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) facemasks.  As mentioned earlier, the true test is to be able to identify the causative agent for the sufferer.  The naturopathic aids mentioned here are by no means exhaustive; however, they are mostly symptomatic aids in nature to help with the excess mucous and irritation suffering with the exposure.

To plan your hiking and camping trip efficiently, you need to factor these things into consideration if you’re susceptible to them.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  You have a great day, Readers!  Take care of yourselves and each other, and may your adventure be both safe and enjoyable!