Allergies


 

Etiology

Allergies occur when our bodys’ immune system reacts to a foreign substance (IE pollen or pet dander) which doesn't cause a reaction in most people. The human immune system makes antibodies to protect you from unwanted invaders, like viruses, that could make you sick or cause an infection. When you have allergies, your immune system is making antibodies that identify a certain substance as harmful, even though it isn't. This particular substance that is normally safe to most people, but that a certain individual is reaction to is considered an “allergen”. When you come into contact with the allergen, your immune system reacts and can symptoms such as inflammation of your skin, sinuses, airways or even your digestive system.

The severity of allergies varies from person to person and can range from minor irritation most commonly seen in “seasonal allergies” where people experience irritation of the sinuses at different seasons due to pollens and grasses, all the way to anaphylaxis where there is airway constriction (and can be a potentially life-threatening emergency) like those who are allergic to shellfish or peanuts.

Clinical Features

Symptoms of allergies range from small annoyances to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Some types of allergies, often certain foods or bee stings, can cause anaphylaxis. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis because allergies can worsen over time and someone who might usually get only a mild reaction, might later develop an anaphylactic reaction.

o Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

                -Loss of consciousness

                -Drop in Blood Pressure and/or a rapid and weak pulse

                -Shortness of breath

                -Skin rash and/or feeling hot

                -Feeling light-headed or dizzy

                -Nausea and vomiting

***For severe allergic reaction and anaphylaxis, call 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately to seek medical aid. Many people who know about their severe allergies carry medicine like epinephrine in an auto-injector, if this is the case, use the injection right away. Even if symptoms improve after the injection, it is still necessary to seek medical attention for evaluation and to make sure the symtoms don’t return after the medication wears off. ***


Other symptoms of allergies that are less severe include:

o Hay Fever or “Allergic Rhinitis”

          -Sneezing

          -Itching of the nose, eyes, or roof of mouth

          -Runny nose and/or nasal congestion

          -Conjunctivitis (red, watery, and even swelling of the eyes)


o Food Allergies

          -Tingling in the mouth

          -Swelling of the lips, tongue, face or throat

          -Hives

          -Anaphylaxis (an emergency situation, call 911 immediately)


o Insect bite or sting

          -Large area of swelling at site of sting or bite.

          -Hives and/or systemic itching

          -Cough, tightness of chest, wheezing, or shortness of breath.

          -Anaphylaxis (an emergency situation, call 911 immediately)


o Drug Allergies

          -Nausea or vomiting

          -Systemic itching and/or hives or rashes

          -Facial Swelling

          -Wheezing or Shortness of breath

          -Anaphylaxis (an emergency situation, call 911 immediately)
 

o Dermatitis (allergic skin condition)

          -Itchiness of skin

          -Redness and/or swelling

          -Flake, peeling, or scaling of the skin.

Diagnosis

You can suspect that you have an allergy (or allergies) if you experience any of the above symptoms. If you visit a doctor for a evaluation of allergy symptoms, you can expect:

o A detailed questionnaire about your symptoms including a physical exam. The doctor might also have you keep a journal about your symptoms and possible triggers. 

o Your doctor might also perform a skin test where your skin is pricked and exposed to small amounts of the potential allergens. If your skin reacts, usually with a small bump or hive, then the test for that substance is positive, and you have an allergy to that substance.  

o Blood tests are also sometimes utilized to detect antibodies to certain substances in the blood. 


Traditional Chinese Medicine differentiates allergy symptoms into three types:

o Wind Cold 

-Nasal congestion, runny nose with clear mucus, sneezing, slight headaches, itchy or watery eyes, decreased sense of smell. 

-With Wind Cold type we see a floating or floating and tight pulse, and a pale or light red tongue with a thin white coating.  


o Wind Heat

- Nasal congestion, running nose with thick yellow mucus, sneezing, headache that feels distending or full, itchy nose, itchy and sore throat, redness and/or swelling around the nose or eyes, itchy and red eyes. 

- With Wind Heat type we see a floating or a floating and rapid pulse, tongue is red or with red prickles and a thin yellow coating. 


o Deficiency (Lung Qi, Spleen Qi, and/or Kidney Qi)

-Lung qi deficiency 

-Recurrent sneezing and/or nasal itch, copious clear and watery discharge with or without nasal congestion, decreased sense of smell, frequent colds, spontaneous sweating, shortness of breath. We see a pale complexion, a pale tongue with thin white coating, and a deficient and weak pulse. 

-Lung and Spleen qi deficiency

-Recurrent episodes, persistent nasal congestion or runny nose with thin watery or sticky white mucus, nasal itch, decreased sense of smell, fatigue and/or apathy, poor appetite, loose stools. We see a pale and flabby tongue with toothmarks and a white coating and a soft and weak or a slippery pulse. 

-Kidney deficiency


-Chronic condition that is often present since childhood, congestion, sneezing, watery nasal discharge, decreased sense of smell. Could have some of the following symptoms which are congruent with different kidney deficiencies: watery stools, night sweats, lower back pain or weakness, weakness of knees. Tongue and pulse will vary. 

Treatment of Allergies

The treatment of allergies includes avoidance of the allergen and regulation of the immune system. If your reaction is anaphylaxis, then you will likely have to completely avoid the allergen for the rest of your life, however, if your reaction is less severe, it is possible to regulate your immune system to lower, or even eliminate, the inappropriate immune response. With the later, you will still want to try and avoid the allergen for a period of time to give time to heal (this is especially true with food allergies). 

o Wind Cold

- We will use acupuncture points to release the exterior, expel cold, and regulate the lung qi. These points will help bring circulation to the lungs to help them to function correctly. Points include: LI 4, SJ 5, Sp 3, Lu 7, 9, “allergy” and Ren 17. We will also use points to help with the symptoms including: LI 20, Bitong, Yintang, St 8, and Du 20. Herbal prescriptions include Cang Er Zi San, Shi Chang Put, Gui Zhi. With Headache, add Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao San. Treatment in the beginning will be more frequent to combat the symptoms, once symptoms are controlled we will work more with the root of the problem to help regulate your immune system to prevent future episodes, even when in the presence of the allergen. 

          

o Wind Heat

- Acupuncture prescription to expel wind, clear heat, regulate the lung qi, and open the nasal passages and increase blood circulation to the lungs and upper respiratory tract. Li 11, 4, 3, SJ 5, “allergy”, Liv 2, Lu 10, 7 with also points for symptoms including LI 20, Bitong, Yintang, St 8. Herbal Prescription to include Sang Ju Yin and Cang Er Zi San. With more heat, Jin yin hua and Huang Qin. More nasal congestion Qing Bi Tang and Bai Zhi. 

o Deficiency

- Acupuncture prescriptions to tonify deficient organs by increasing the blood circulation to those organ to help them to function properly. Points include LI 4, 10, LU 7, 9, SJ 5, Kd 3, 4, Sp 3, 6, 9. Points for symptoms will also be included: “allergy”, LU 10, LI 20, Bitong, Yintang, Du 20. Herbal formulas include: Yu Ping Feng San, Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, Bi Zhong Yi Qi Tang, and Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan. These might also be combined with Cang Er Zi San for circulation to the upper respiratory tract and herbs to open the nasal passages including Shi Chang Pu, Xi xin, and Bai Zhi. 

Food, Seasonal, and other Environmental Allergies can be a large source of stress in people’s lives, come get evaluated today to see if Chinese Medicine can help reduce or eliminate your allergy symptoms!

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