The number of people suffering from various types of allergies is tremendous. These disorders range from the sniffles during certain pollen seasons to a danger of sudden death from shock after one bee sting. A number of body organs are affected by allergies, including the gastrointestinal tract, the lungs, the nose and sinuses, the eyes, the skin, and even the bladder.

In fact, almost all membranes and mucous linings of the body can be target organs for allergic manifestations. Literally hundreds of different remedies are sold across the counter and by prescription in neighborhood pharmacies. Similarly, hundreds of skin tests are performed to try and determine the exact cause.

Specialists devote their lives in an attempt to understand the nature of allergies. Yet with all of this light and scientific research focused on the problem, a cure has not yet been found. We will consider some of the more common types of allergy and a few simple treatments that anyone can do in his or her home to either avoid the cause or provide relief.


This allergic disease of the respiratory system primarily affects the lungs. At the end of each tiny air tube that reaches the lung is the alveolus, where gas exchange occurs. Here oxygen enters the red blood cells to be exchanged for carbon dioxide, which is then exhaled.

The bronchial tubes that form the large and small air passages have a smooth specialized muscle in them that constricts under certain conditions. In contrast, with the smooth muscle of the artery walls, these bronchial muscles dilate in response to adrenalin and constrict in the presence of histamine as well as other chemical mediators of allergies.

A condition described as bronchial asthma occurs when there is spasm of the bronchial tubes, leading to obstruction in the airway. Usually there is also excess mucus accumulation and thickening of the mucus’s making it more tenacious and difficult to clear. The asthmatic patient, then, primarily has an air hunger, with musical wheezes in the lung.

These can be heard easily with a stethoscope over the chest and in more severe asthmatic crises becomes audible to the unaided ear. A number of conditions can produce these symptoms. There are certain drugs that can create an allergic reaction, as well as many industrial inhalants that irritate the lungs.

A few people react to food allergies with the production of asthma’s though this is less common. Most frequently, the asthmatic sufferer reacts to inhaled particles in the air, called allergens, which may be of a biologic nature or inanimate particles. House dust is an example of the latter.

Danders from cats, dogs, horses, feathers, or down also can produce wheezing. Commonly seen in the spring, summer, and fall are allergies to various inhaled pollens. Although some people primarily suffer from hay fever (discussed below), others are affected in their lungs.

The inhalation of pollens, such as those from pine trees in the spring, wildflowers in the summertime, ragweed or goldenrod in the fall, may produce characteristic responses. These are related to the number of particles inhaled and the efficiency of the nasal filtering mechanism. Emotions can also trigger allergies.

I remember vividly the experience of a teenage girl who suffered a violent asthma attack in a hospital when she remembered with nostalgia her dear pet cat at home alone! Moreover, numerous infections in the lung are seen in conjunction with asthma. These are usually termed asthmatic bronchitis.

Frequently seen in childhood, they are often associated with an upper respiratory infection. A physiologic approach to asthma then involves several factors. The secretions should be thinned with a copious fluid intake’s preferably by the oral route. Inhalations of cool moist air can often help in the clearing of secretions and the thinning of this very sticky mucous material.

Gentle coughing assists in expelling of the mucous plugs, but this should be done in combination with the inhalation of humidified cool air. The use of a stem vaporizer is to be discouraged, as this often adds to the swelling and edema formation in the bronchial tubes. Hydrotherapy is important in the treatment of asthma.

Often the adrenal glands can be stimulated early in the disease by a quick ice rub to the spine in the upper back, associated with brisk tapping (percussion) over the adrenal area. This stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system results in the discharge of enough adrenalin to counteract the acute effects in beginning stages, as well as induce dilation of the bronchial tubes.

Prolonged hot packs to the chest can sometimes be effective in relaxing both the respiratory muscles and the patient’s s nerves. This must be repeated several times, and will often abort the acute asthmatic attack and eliminate the need for medication.

Inhalation therapy with the use of bronchial dilators and theophylline derivatives are often used in a hospital setting. Sometimes mullein tea or other teas containing theophylline can be used with some effectiveness to further aid in combating the bronchial spasm.

As in any disease, a thorough attempt to discover the cause’s then as far as possible eliminate it’s will reward the asthmatic sufferer with an increase of comfort and removal of those conditions that progresses in the advanced case too often leading to emphysema.

Hay Fever

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is a hypersensitivity disease involving the nose and sinuses, The mucous membrane becomes inflamed in response to an allergic substance and produces a watery, profuse discharge associated with increased tearing, itching of the eyes, and sneezing.

This condition is usually seasonal, with the peak incidence corresponding to the presence of the offending allergenic inhalants. Pollens of trees, grasses, wildflowers, and other weeds are the most common culprits in producing this allergy. Some people are affected by danders, the particles produced from the skin of animals or hair from cats, dogs, horses, etc.

House dust, molds, feathers, and even certain foods can produce hay fever. The appearance of the inner mucous lining of the nose is usually pale and thin, as opposed to upper respiratory infections where the mucus becomes thick, and the mucous membrane reddened and swollen.

Usually it is quite helpful for the allergy sufferer to know and identify the offenders. Scratch tests are usually helpful in evaluating the type of sensitivity. Intradermal injections are more commonly done by ear, nose, and throat specialists or allergists.

However, the simpler and less expensive scratch tests are usually sufficient to establish the cause and initiate desensitization therapy. Recent advances in the use of allergy shots have allowed a more rapid desensitization procedure that is replacing the traditional year-round technique.

The hay fever sufferer will find relief from the plentiful use of tissues, by placing cool compresses over the nose and sinus areas. Frequent nasal irrigation with cool saline (sniffing or spraying the salty solution) will help remove entrapped pollens and other particles, and clear the nasal passages of the allergy—producing substances.

When the allergy is due to Bermuda grass or ragweed, activities outdoors such as yard work and lawn mowing may require the use of a mask. An appropriate respiratory filter can trap these pollens and minimize the symptoms, while still allowing work outside.

Botanical identification of certain plants, such as ragweed, goldenrod, and various trees, grasses, and wildflowers will interest the pursuit of further nature study, while cautiously avoiding fields and forests where the prime offenders abound. The chronic use of antihistamines and nasal sprays is to be discouraged, as side effects are frequent and troublesome.

Excessive drowsiness, disturbance of digestive secretions, and the “rebound phenomenon” associated with nasal reaction to decongestants are all avoidable with this emphasis on natural remedies. Further attention to the diet, or in unusual cases, the relocation to a different climate may be necessary to bring hay fever and its troublesome symptoms under control.


A number of allergic conditions, affect the skin. Some of these, such as eczema are mentioned in the previous chapter. Hives, or urticaria, is a very common manifestation of hypersensitivity. Many causes for this exist. The disease itself is manifested by the sudden appearance of reddened areas, which rapidly become welts, being distributed generally over the body or localized to the face, neck’s or extremities.

Intense itching is usually present. The lesions often migrate and change their appearance rapidly. The rash, however, usually does not blister or weep unless scratching has abraded the skin and allowed the entrance of germs. Food allergies can sometimes cause hives.

Very frequently an allergy to strawberries, shellfish, or some less common food can trigger a sudden onset of this rash. Reaction to substances such as wheat, milk, or eggs is more rare. It is necessary to avoid the food if one wishes to eliminate the symptom. Several drugs can also cause hives.

This condition is usually termed a drug allergy. The most common producers of this drug reaction are Penicillin and related antibiotics. Sulfa drugs and pharmaceuticals from nearly every major class of medicinal agent can produce an urticarial reaction in the sensitized individual.

Babies seldom get hives unless a drug has been present in the milk or they have had previous exposure. But it is frequently seen in children and adults with no particular preference as to age, sex, or race. The result of stress at both conscious and subconscious levels may trigger a sudden onset of urticaria.

However, in up to 50% of the cases the exact source cannot be detected with certainty. It is very worthwhile to look for the cause, however, and consider any substance that is inhaled, ingested, or contacted by the skin as a possible factor to exclude. Treatment of hives should first begin with reassurance.

This condition is self-limited and is usually neither life threatening nor contagious. The intense itching can be relieved considerably by cool baths with the addition of one cup starch or oatmeal powder (Aveeno), or alternately using 1/2 cup baking soda. Lotions may be helpful to reduce the symptoms.

Try ice packs for local lesions. Antihistamines seem to counteract the reaction, but usually are not necessary as the condition commonly disappears within hours. An exception to this may occur with bee sting allergy. If an individual is highly allergic to the sting of a honey bee, wasp, hornet, or yellow jacket, the reaction with hives will be immediate and generalized.

Not only should ice and/ or moistened charcoal be applied to the site of the sting, but in emergencies the administration of adrenalin or a similar substance is necessary to prevent rapid progression into the swelling of the respiratory passages or the sudden development of shock.

Since bee sting hypersensitivity can be lethal, careful diagnosis and prompt treatment is essential. Moreover, in such cases, desensitization injections can permit greater freedom in outdoor life and remove the fear that often grips parents as well as children who live with this threat of danger.

Food Allergies

There is probably no area more controversial and perplexing as suspected allergies connected with food. These range from sensitivity to food additives, such as coloring, preservatives, and other foreign chemicals, to plant sources, to actual hypersensitivity to protein and other constituents of fruits, grains, nuts, vegetables, or animal foods.

Careful detective work and long-term adherence to dietary regimens are frequently necessary to first diagnose and then live with food allergies. It is my belief that the stage is set for many food allergies by feeding patterns in infancy, such as the early introduction of solid foods, the widespread use of cow’s s milk in prepared formulas, and the relative lack of mother interest in prolonged breast feeding.

Maternal use of drugs which sensitize the babies in utero or during the breast-feeding period can also prepare the way for allergic responses to develop. The most common allergy that occurs in infancy is a sensitivity to cow’s milk. This is often manifested in diarrhea, unusual regurgitation, excessive gas or colic, or a “failure to thrive.”

Usually a change to soymilk formula if breast feeding is not available will stabilize the situation, although rarely more restricted and specific formulas have to be devised. A majority of the black and oriental races and lesser percentages of Caucasians are sensitive to cow’s s milk even in adult life.

This, however, is due to the deficiency of lactase, an enzyme which helps to split milk sugar (lactose) and render it available for absorption. Diarrhea, excessive gas, and an acid stool are produced. Simply abstaining from milk is curative. You must always suspect the diagnosis in order to apply the proper remedy at once, thus removing the cause.

Other people are truly allergic to the proteins of cow’s milk and find unpleasant symptoms, such as frequent sinus or nasal congestion, related to the intake of milk. Please note, however, that skin scratch tests for food allergies are notoriously unreliable as indicators of an individual’s s sensitivity to the eating of these foods.

It appears that the skin is just not a parallel indicator with the gastrointestinal tract. The only way to be certain in diagnosing food allergies is through trying an elimination diet. Next to milk as a cause of allergy, chocolate and wheat lead the list.

Usually the grains are less common allergens, but berries (such as strawberries), nuts, shellfish, eggs, and many other foods can produce similar symptoms. It is believed by some that symptoms resembling hypoglycemia, such as episodic weakness and certain mental aberrations (anxiety, panic attacks, depression, etc.) may be related to food allergies.

It must be acknowledged, though, full proof is lacking to completely confirm this theory as yet. Nevertheless, eliminating the offending food, then gradually progressing from a limited diet to a more liberal intake of varied foods will help bring a return of health and strength, with fewer physical symptoms and more emotional stability. Sulfites are added to foods to serve a variety of purposes.

They preserve food by killing bacteria and yeasts. They retain color and apparent freshness by acting as antioxidant. They may also be used to sterilize containers and arrest fermentation in alcoholic drinks. The label may contain any of the following listings, all various types of sulfites: sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite.

Many people are allergic to sulfites, reacting with skin rash or asthmatic wheezing. Carefully test for allergies with a medically approved method. RAST (Radio Allergo Sorbent Test) testing offers an easy way to evaluate the blood for immediate immune reactive (IgE) factors.

The more definitive, though expensive, ELISA/ACT TM (Enzyme Linked Immune Sorbent Assay / Advanced Cell Test) measures both immediate and delayed responsiveness to over 300 foods and environmental chemicals. Additional detailed evaluations, however, may require a period of observation and careful dietary therapy in a sanitarium or preventive lifestyle institution to isolate specific factors or undertake dietary trials.

Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylactic shock is a highly dangerous allergic manifestation that occurs when an individual has an immediate life-threatening reaction to contact, ingestion, or injection of an allergen. This rarely occurs with food allergy, but is most commonly associated with drugs.

Penicillin injections have periodically produced this severe type of anaphylactic shock. Stings from hornets, honey bees, bumblebees, and yellow jackets in sensitized individuals can provoke anaphylactic reactions. Even inhalation of allergens, such as antibiotic powder, or caster bean flour, may cause anaphylaxis.

Symptoms occur within seconds to minutes after the substance enters into the body, when precipitous drop in blood pressure occurs. Frequently there is difficulty breathing, profuse sweating, and sudden generalized vascular relaxation that causes faintness. In fatal cases stoppage of the heart or respiration follows.

Prompt emergency resuscitative measures are necessary to save the life of a victim in anaphylactic shock. Subcutaneous injection of adrenalin in the appropriate dosage (based on body size) is life saving in such a situation, while general first aid measures involving adequate airway, artificial respiration, and closed chest cardiac massage are instituted.

Increasing anaphylactic cases of this nature has brought physicians to adopt a more conservative attitude in the administration of antibiotics by injection. Bee sting allergy kits are available for those sensitized individuals who live with this ever present threat of danger.

Specific Hypersensitivity

Several other types of allergies manifest themselves in inflammatory states of various body organs. Allergies have been implicated as the cause of cystitis or inflammation of the bladder, and this typically resembles a urinary tract infection. The joints can be affected by allergies, with ensuing pain, swelling, and disability.

Allergies in the bronchial tree, the sinuses, and the upper respiratory tract are likewise common. Most commonly seen is hypersensitivity to substances contacting the skin. Nickel, as in watch bands, elastic in undergarments, various cosmetics, dyes, creams, lotions, medications, and plant substances all can produce the skin rash of allergic dermatitis or aggravate an existing eczema.

All known offenders must be avoided to regain health. Allergy as a medical specialty is growing, with the increasing number of chemical, biological, and food sensitivities that send more people for testing and treatment each year. While cures are illusive, control is frequently possible, offering considerable hope, especially good news to allergy sufferers.