Hayfever is an allergic reaction of the body to the massive amounts of pollen, plant vapours and micro particles from cut grass or barks of trees etc. released in the atmosphere during spring and summer time. It causes sneezing, Itchy eyes, coughing, runny nose and eyes, fatigue, insomnia, nasal congestion, itchy skin and even asthma attacks. For two months or so people are very uncomfortable. As soon as these particles disappear from the atmosphere at the end of summer, all the symptoms disappear like nothing had ever happened.
The word “allergy” comes from the word ”allegro” meaning “the other”. Therefore, it is a reaction to something other than that which is present within the biological structure or biochemistry of the body. Our immune system, which is nature’s miraculous gift, is constantly protecting us from everything in surrounding environment or from that which we voluntarily ingest or inhale or apply ion to our bodies:
1. The pollutants or pollen
3. Particles from animal hair that settle on the skin or eyes or nasal / lung linings; the invisible rays from the sun
4. The cosmos
5. The bacteria or virus
6. Fungi that enter the body through air
7. Food or water
9. Toxic gases we inhale
12. Hair dye we use
13. Intolerant food or excess alcohol
14. Spices or food chemicals that we consume etc.
The body must defend itself from all of these as they are alien in nature. The immune system, like respiration or digestion or reproduction or response to external stimuli, is a parameter of life. All forms of life have these essential qualities. If man uses strong antibiotics to kill bacteria, the latter in turn will try to mutate so that it becomes “immune” or “resistant” to them. Scientists will then look for another variant of the antibiotic to continue their battle against bacteria. Thus bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites etc. too have an immune system of their own.
Here is an interesting story a friend of mine told me once. There was a severe drought in the Kruger National Park in South Africa some years ago. Many Kudus (antelopes) began to die all of a sudden, even though there were enough shrubs and leaves to feed on. Veterinary doctors and scientists were baffled by it. They focused on the Kudus’ favourite plants. What they discovered was amazing. The plants, under stress of the drought, began to produce a toxic chemical that killed the animals. It was a defensive reaction to preserve its species. This is purely because plants too have an immune system. What is going on with the weather system now (heat wave, floods, unseasonal or excessive snowing or rain, drought etc.) is also a reaction of the “immune system “of the universe, almost like an allergic reaction.
The body has basically three categories of invading matter to deal with: living, non-living and others that include chemicals. Against the living matter, it has the powerful “immune system “triggering the production of antibodies which is directed towards the bacterial infections. The vaccination programme and the successful conquering of many deadly diseases have clearly proved that point. The antibodies against viruses called interferon are somewhat successful in combating viral infections. However, against fungi, another living species causing infection, the body is yet to develop any antibodies or other means of defence. These are like the illegal immigrants in our body, who play hide and seek with the detectives or immigration authorities. They have spores, hard shells and non-detectable membranes so the immune system can’t decode them. That is why parasitic fungal infections are so hard to control.
When non-living matter like pollen, dust, nuts, aromatic oils etc. enter the body, the immune system cannot identify their codes because of their complicated organic structure, but does recognise them as threat to the organism. It then puts its Plan B into action, a strategy to expel the “intruders”. This is done by a complex histamine reaction which involves excessive mucous secretion ( runny nose, watery eyes) to flush the allergens; constricting the bronchi or throat ( cough or asthma attack) to prevent them from entering the lungs; sneezing to violently spray off the particles; causing diarrhoea to flush the gut of intolerable food particles or gluten or pathogenic substances etc. In fact these are body’s defensive reaction but with massive discomfort to the subject. No one wants to sneeze, itch, cough, wheeze, and have diarrhoea or body ache or lethargy. That is why doctors prescribe antihistamines to stop these reactions. We interfere with the body’s natural response to the invasion of foreign bodies.
The cleverest thing to do is to reduce the contact with the particles by wearing a mask and closed sunglasses, like the ones eye patients are often recommended to block sunlight. Avoid foodstuffs that one is intolerant or allergic to. This will somewhat reduce the amount of particles reaching the eyes and nostrils and the gut.
The second line of action can, at best, be called “damage control measures”. Here are some tips:
1. A month before the hay fever season, prepare yourself and improve your general health. You are likely to suffer less.
2. Nutrition : avoid acid or citric fruits/food ( lemon, orange, pineapple, vinegar, white wine etc.), Yeast or fungal products ( bread, pizza, beer, nan, pitta, mushrooms, yeast spreads ), excess alcohol or coffee or salt, hot chillies, nuts, cheese, ice cream, chilled drinks with ice cubes, shellfish, canned or preserved foods, sausages or bacon or salami, excess sugar and fried food.
3. Do regular yoga for 15–30 minutes (Pranayama, cobra, boat, salutation to the sun, neck exercises)
4. Neck and back massage if possible or just self-massage of the neck (The Neck Connection Book).
5. Supplements: Vitamin C 500mg and Zinc 15 mg daily.
6. Dr Ali’s Sinus Oil: 2 drops in each nostril twice daily (firstname.lastname@example.org)
7. During an attack, practice the following breathing exercise: inhale for 6 seconds, hold breath for 6 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds. Do this for 5 minutes every hour, if possible.