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ABC's Of Allergies
(Released August 2006)

 
  by Sujata Suri  

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Over the counter medicines such as antihistamines, corticosteroids or decongestants are helpful in only treating the symptoms of allergic disease, not preventing the onset of allergies.

Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) is the process by which increasing doses of an allergen are injected subcutaneously (under the skin) over time as a treatment to prevent allergic symptoms. Immunotherapy involves a series of injections (shots) containing a mixture of allergens to which a person is sensitive, regularly for several months or even years. The first shots start with very tiny amounts of the allergens and eventually dosages increase over time. This process is also called desensitization or allergen immunotherapy. Medications help in reducing symptoms but immunotherapy is the only available treatment for reducing sensitivity to allergens.

three cute kittens
People allergic to cat dander can order hypoallergenic cats

Rush immunotherapy (RIT), also known as accelerated immunotherapy, is done very quickly, with shots given every few hours, instead of every few days or weeks, to increase the tolerance to an allergen (Nelson, 1995). Rush immunotherapy can be done quickly if someone gets a life-threatening allergy, for instance caused by a bee sting or other insect venom. Recently it was found that patients receiving both Omalizumab (monoclonal antibody) and RIT had fewer adverse symptoms than those receiving either treatment alone. Pretreatment of Omalizumab enhances both the efficacy and the safety of Rush immunotherapy (Casale et al. 2006).

Homeopathic remedies: Homeopathic remedies and natural products such as Lycopodium, Pulsatilla and sulfur can be useful in reducing allergic response (Colin, 2006). Intestinal commensal bacterial flora or eating the right kind of yoghurt (probiotic bacteria) can also be used for inhibiting the development of allergic responses to food related allergens (Bashir et al., 2004) (See CSA's Bugs in Our Guts for more information). Studies in mice have shown that induction of allergen-specific IgE and symptoms is associated with functional TLR4 receptors of lipopolysaccharides (toll like receptors-4). Strains of mice treated with TLR4 showed reduced symptoms than untreated strains. Mice lacking TLR-4 produce higher amounts of IgE and histamine levels. Mice react to TLR-4 by producing liposaccharides and show increased levels of IL-13 and allergy specific IFNy and thus allergy reduction.

Avoiding exposure: Because prevention is better than cure, personal hygiene may be the best alternative for reducing allergies. Persons prone to respiratory symptoms should avoid exposure to allergens; they should cover their noses or wear pollen/dust masks while going outside or exercising during pollen season. Air filters in furnaces and air conditioners should be changed monthly. Air purifiers and cleaning of air vents and ducts can help in cleansing the air. Wooden or cement floors are preferable to carpets, while frequent washing of bed sheets, covers, and other linens also reduces allergens. Avoid exposure to stored clothes in boxes or wardrobes for months after removal from storage and wash them before wearing. The simple way to avoid pet related allergy is to avoid the pets; pet lovers can keep a hypoallergenic pet. Researchers have developed a cat which lacks the allergen (Fel D 1) so that people allergic to cats can own a hypoallergenic pet (http://www.allerca.com/).

Special thanks to Deborah Whitman for her invaluable help with this Discovery Guide

© Copyright 2006, All Rights Reserved, CSA

List of Visuals

References

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