On Allergies: Is Modern Medicine Fighting the Causes of This Ailment?
Allergies are abnormal reactions of the immune system that occur in response to otherwise harmless substances. Heightened sensitivity to a foreign substance. The severity of an allergic reaction. Major source of lost productivity in the workplace.
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On Allergies: Is Modern Medicine Fighting the Causes of This Ailment?
Are Doctors Telling Us Everything?
A Case Against Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtac, and other "allergy relief" medicines and their makers together with distributors, prescribers, and blind consumers.
By Mamurjon Rahimov, May 12/2004
allergy immune system substance
Allergies are abnormal reactions of the immune system that occur in response to otherwise harmless substances.
An allergy is a heightened sensitivity to a foreign substance (called an allergen) which causes the body's defense system (the immune system) to overreact when defending itself. Normally, the immune system would only react if a harmful substance, such as a bacteria, attacks the body. For people with allergies, their own immune system is working too hard, and it reacts even when relatively harmless substances such as pollen are present. The severity of an allergic reaction can vary from mild discomfort to life threatening situations.
Allergies are among the most common of medical disorders. It is estimated that 60 million Americans, or more than one in every five people, suffer from some form of allergy, with similar proportions throughout much of the rest of the world. Allergy is the single largest reason for school absence and is a major source of lost productivity in the workplace.
Wow! These dreadful allergies are going to get us! What kind of wunderkinds wrote the above paragraphs, and trying to fool everyone?
I feel I have been deceived in a big way for the second time, maybe more, by the medical profession. I wonder why would doctors hide all the information about the truth on allergies and other medical knowledge, and the only explanation that comes to my mind is financial stakes behind this single largest industry in the USA - that in size leaves behind aerospace, automotive, petroleum industries, to name a few. In fact, by economic size Medical Industry is at least three times as large as the Automotive Industry of the USA!
I was able to understand allergies through my conversations with friends, doctors, reading news, encyclopedias, articles and books on immune system, and most importantly - through observations of myself and those around me. Why can I understand some things in such a plain way while doctors try to keep the fog around it, and my part is only obeying to their prescriptions?
Humans are like cars...
...In many ways human beings are similar to cars...Driver is like a soul, a car is like our body, and immune system resembles on board computer of the car...
I have some university engineering education, so when my car has a problem, I first try to find a solution by myself before taking it to a mechanic. Someone told me that in America one should not trust three categories of people: mechanics, doctors, and politicians.
Once my car lost power, and I tried to find its causes. Symptoms showed that fuel was not burning properly inside cylinders (computer diagnostics at AutoZone). I searched the causes in electrical and air system. I did an expensive tune-up, changed air filter and airflow sensor, but shortly "check engine" light came back on. Then I turned to fuel system, and mixed injector cleaner and fuel pipe cleaner with several fill-ups. Every time the light would turn off for few days, and come back on again.
Finally, I came to the last thing I suspected to be the cause of the power loss - fuel filter. As soon as I replaced it (very cheap), the car became like new! It was accelerating faster than ever before, and moreover "check engine" light never came back on again! Hence, until I found the real cause of the problem - the fuel filter that was clogged with dirt over the years - my car was suffering and could not tell me what was hurting most...
Chicago - a pollen capital? Location, location, location... What else?
(Intensity of exposure)
Until I came to Chicago, I never had pollen allergy. Furthermore, I observed that I did not suffer pollen allergy the first year in spring (in Chicago). What was different that first year? Is that my IMMUNE SYSTEM was working properly then, and eventually failed in protecting my organism which caused my sufferings (runny nose, itchy red eyes, occasional nasal congestion)? That is unbelievable because I live a healthy way of life, avoiding smoking, drinking, and other hazardous habits. I spent over two years in Atlanta also and never "suffered" allergies there. Plus, I grew up at a rural town, and all the farm work, and our wonder garden never caused any trouble during blossom time. Pollen maps of the USA show that Chicago is in the "heavy" zone, which is second to "very heavy pollination" zone. Pollen maps are made using pollen count of a cubic meter (or another unit of measurement) of local air. Within a state or a city, neighborhoods can also be classified according their pollination level, vegetation type. For instance, I live in Hickory Hills, IL, and hickory pollen is a well-known "allergen" (pollen.com: pollen library).
But even in Chicago, many people are not having pollen allergies, while some cashing out on prescription allergy-relief drugs after exhausting the power of OTC drugs. Why?
Another thing to know about Chicago is that it is a very windy place. Although it is not the windiest city in the USA, its winds take pollens around for hundreds of miles, and most importantly at high speeds.
What is pollen?
n : transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of a plant [syn: pollenation]
WordNet, Princeton University
Every spring most trees and other plants blossom, and most of them emit pollen. Insects and birds are good carriers of pollen, but the best and invisible one is wind. As said before, winds carry pollen for hundreds of miles, and even after the winds subside, since pollen is so tiny and light, it stays afloat for a very long time in the air.
Rains are very good at washing away pollen from air and various surfaces, but short and light rains only make things worse by elevating already settled pollen from surfaces back into the air (allergyinfo.com).
Most of the pollen certainly comes in spring in majority of places, and some plants continue to blossom and emit pollen throughout the year.
Pollination season is better described by blossom season. Blossoming trees and weeds produce the pollen as a natural way of multiplying. When plants start blossoming we should know that pollen is in the air and should keep ourselves away from this natural process' way. "Allergies" can be thought of as a punishment that is inflicted on us for intervening with this natural process...:)
Is Pollen Really an Allergen?
Yes, and no. The very definition of allergen is somewhat confusing, I believe. I read postings on Internet sites dedicated to allergies, where people ask what is so dangerous in pollen that it causes allergies. Certain sites, such as allergyinfo.com maintained by Zyrtac, even mention some super allergens (certain weeds and trees).
There is no need to create a new word and definition, such as allergy or allergen. We learnt that allergy is an immune reaction (action), which is allegedly "abnormal". Interestingly, I believe that allergy is 100% normal. I will write in detail below.
By definition, allergens are anything that can cause allergy. Virtually anything can cause allergy, even people. For someone who does not like me, I would be an allergen. So, if one can call anything allergen, then there is no need to have the word itself, because words are needed for us to differentiate between things. That in turn makes us to believe that the word allergy is also redundant.
I am suspecting that these words were adopted by learned medical men mainly to confuse people from the main thing that we are dealing with - IMMUNE SYSTEM.
I did some enlightening for myself in the field of vaccines recently (nvic.org), and I do not trust medical professionals in this field anymore. My family is now protected from vaccines and everything else that comes with it, inshaallah. My knowledge of immunology led me in understanding allergy phenomenon. I came to understand that immune system works in all of us unnoticeably most of the time. Our responsibility is to take appropriate measures to consciously assist our immune system when it undertakes some extreme and noticeable actions, which is the case of "allergic reaction".
Medical and other encyclopedias referred to allergies as "hypersensitivity" to a substance (britannica.com). In plain language, hypersensitivity would be "too sensitive", "job overdone", "false alarm", "false start", I suppose. But, having read the descriptions on how immune system works, I doubt that such a sophisticated system fails in such a big way.
Allergies are divided to many kinds such as pollen, chemicals, food, and medicine, to name a few. In this case I will be talking specifically about pollen allergies, but most of my observations can be related to other allergies as well.
When a substance, called allergen, touches the inside walls of our nose, according medical literature, immune system mistakes it for invaders and launches immune attack by producing histamine and a lot of nasal fluid. Histamine clogs the small capillaries inside the nose, which leads to congestion. When we take Claritin, its antihistamine reduces histamine production by immune system - that qualifies it to be immunosuppressant drug, i.e. a drug that lowers the body's normal immune response [syn: immunosuppressive drug] (WordNet ® 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University). This made me very cautious because the immunosuppressants usually suppress immunity in all ways, not just towards one or two substances. This means by taking convenient allergy-relief medicines people are making their bodies susceptible to many other dreadful infectious diseases. It is also like removing air filter in one's car and continuing driving when engine has "breathing problem" due to the clogged air filter.
So what made me decide that I had "pollen allergy"?
Observation of my allergy history and pattern lead me to some very clear-cut conclusions about pollen allergy. I remember my sneezing and itchy eyes started immediately after we visited a local forest preserve with my family in spring 2003. My wife and child were with me but their window was closed, and thus they avoided direct exposure to high-concentration pollen dust current blowing inside. At first my wife and I thought I caught cold or flu, but it cannot continue for over a month without any improvement. Within a month I used more than a dozen boxes of paper tissue. Finally I spoke with Dr. Sahloul, a pulmonologist from Syria, and after I explained him the symptoms he recommended me Claritin. I took the medicine and eventually my allergies subsided, but I now realize that pollen season was almost over until I took the medicine.
New spring came and by early May I started having the same symptoms as last year. My wife got away with little sneezing and occasional coughing, and my daughter Nargiz had very mild form of pollen allergy - because pollen dust hit her where she usually sits - right behind me in a car seat. This time I knew for sure I was "suffering" pollen "allergy". So I got my good old Claritin, in order to feel not just clear, but "Claritin-Clear". But after two pills I was feeling dry mouth and eyes, fatigue, dizziness, slow reaction, and all the rest that was forewarned by the medicine's insert. I gave up the medicine right away, and turned to Internet and books to learn about allergies on my own.
I also noticed this year that my left eye was hurt more by pollen dust - which I traced to my habit of keeping driver's side window open.
I never had properly functioning car A/C until now (now I have), and that was a big problem last year. The year before that I drove only occasionally during spring and made very short trips, that is why allergy spared poor me. Since I gave up my intention to feel "Claritin Clear", I do not go to parks for too long and too often, keep my car windows closed all the time, and A/C on, and I am getting well day after day! That is my allergy myth uncovered!
How Does Immune System Work to Prevent Passage of High Quantity of Pollen into the Lungs?
That is The Question. The question is not how allergies work, or how dangerous pollen is. We have to inquire into the realm of IMMUNE SYSTEM, one of the wonders of ALLAH's creation - this divine, super fast, and complex mechanism, that leaves far behind all the military and civil protection measures devised by men.
I was in the military couple years ago, and I passed all the training and tests for a lieutenant. Back then we were taught about chemical warfare. Enemy is most likely to use chemical weapons when the wind is blowing towards our lines: that keeps them safe and helps to inflict maximum chemical damage to our troops. That is not the most interesting part I learnt about chemical attack. The most interesting thing that struck me is that after the wind blows away the chemical dust away from our lines, we, soldiers, can get up, clean our clothes and ammunition, and continue the battle. Eventually, if no more chemical attacks are expected, we can even take off our protective clothing, and walk further and follow the retreating enemy. When I was modeling how IMMUNE SYSTEM works when too much garbage (like dust, pollen, chemicals, and whatever) keeps entering through nasal tract (as well as mouth), I remembered that the concentration of the chemical (pollen, dust, dander) in the air is more important to keep in mind than its mere existence. That is, when we take off our protective chemical suits, there maybe some more chemical particles left in the air and some of it still airborne after we shake off the chemical residue from our ammunition, but the concentration is not lethal anymore! That is well known in allergy circles, and some sites even offer zip code-by- zip code pollen forecast (pollen.com).
Furthermore, the speed, intensity at which these particles hit our eyes, body, nostrils is also very important, since this determines how deep the particles can infiltrate into our body. This is not emphasized in most of the sources that I encountered.
My purpose was to find a natural cure or something like that, herb or an exercise. I found out that besides countless doctors, pharmacies, and clinics, a lot more self-learned wunderkinds were offering their services to rid you of the dreadful allergies. Some went as far as making hypnosis-based CD courses, for $29.99 plus shipping and handling, to make you immune to allergies! I myself drank an herbal tea that my wife believed would make me free of allergies. But eventually, what I found out literally put things upside down, and exposed the truth about "allergy".
Pollen dust is more convenient description to use, and I see no wisdom behind separating allergies into "pollen allergies" and "dust allergies". This is consistent with what I said about my findings, and that what I am writing here is highly relevant to any other kind of "allergies". Pollen is fine dust that is emitted by plants into the air, in order to multiply themselves, and some of it ends up in our nasal passages, and if we, trying to use quick-fix nasal decongestants, and allergy medications open the way - this dust goes all the way into the lungs and cause worse things than congestion, sneezing, and runny nose - and one of them is asthma. It is already established that the people who suffer most from allergies are also very likely to develop asthma. That is no wonder. Opening air passages with artificial drugs when actually these passages need to be clogged, closed, and cleaned in natural way. Let's make one more step into the modern medicine, and ask why so many companies in the USA sell contact lenses, glasses, and eye drops (Visine)? For example, CLARITIN and other allergy medicines cause dry eyes (I suspect they interfere with body liquid production in some way, because they also cause dry mouth). Dry eyes become open target for pollen dust bombardment and that worsens human vision. Of course, Americans generally "work" a lot with computers, watch too much TV, and read too much also, but I just exposed one more CLEAR reason of bad eye health. I can't help making another intrusion into medical mystery: why so many people have bad breath and teeth? Human saliva has cleaning and disinfecting effect. It maintains teeth enamel and kills germs and bacteria... Dry mouth that caused by allergy medicines - is probably one of the main causes that make our teeth and mouth vulnerable to "foreign invaders"...And bad breath and teeth is a big business, we must not forget, both for medical profession and food producers that make gums and mints of all kind.
I remember using decongestants in my childhood, and quite predictably - I had asthma afterwards for more than ten years. Our immune system produces various fluids to keep our body clean. One of them is nasal fluid. Our nose is a special organ created to pre-screen the air that we breathe in. Normally, minimum of nasal fluid is enough to clean the air current.
If anything is abnormal about "allergies", that is the concentration of dust (pollen dust) in the air during pollination season (summer, spring, and fall). And quite predictably our immune system is expected to work much harder during such seasons. Just like American tanks' air filters needed frequent changing during sand storms in IRAQ in spring of 2003. Hence, it is also abnormal to expose our nose and eyes to a high current of this pollen dust. Pollen dust irritates our eyes and nose. In response, our immune system produces "abnormal" amounts of tears to keep eyes clean and nasal fluid to keep our lungs protected - and this abnormal quantity is quite normal for such abnormal season(s). When this pollen dust sticks to the fluids tears flow, and sneezing happens - that is IMMUNE SYSTEM is flushing the waste!
Hmm, I live in Chicago, and the first thing that comes to mind is Traffic Congestion.
So, what is the main reason for traffic congestions?
Road construction, those guys who are trying to repair the potholes on the asphalt highway!
Then, do we use decongestants for the traffic congestions?
No. We wait for construction workers to finish their job.
Because repairing those potholes is necessary for a healthy traffic in the future...
Now do you see the parallel?
Congestion of our nose is also a process of repair of damaged tissue inside the nasal tract and it is necessary for a healthy, smooth traffic in the future!
Then why do we blow away the construction workers in our nose, i.e. nasal fluid sent to repair and clean the area damaged by too much traffic (caused by truckloads of pollen dust), while trying to open the congestion? That leads me back to my recommendation that we should not blow our nose too frequently during blossom season.
People most susceptible to pollen allergies
1) People with convertible cars
2) People whose car's A/C does not work properly
3) People whose home is not properly ventilated and/or air-conditioned
4) People who like to keep car window open while driving (especially, driver's side)
5) People with open motorboats
6) Motor bikers (especially without a helmet)
7) Bikers (especially during high-pollen hours of the day)
8) Children, because they breath more frequently and stay outside longer than adults.
9) People whose job or hobby keeps them outdoors most of the time during pollen seasons.
It is well known that human saliva has disinfecting effect just like human sweat that besides cooling kills germs attached to the skin. The same is true about human tears - they not only lubricate eyes, but also wash away and kill germs in the eyes. Likewise, I think nasal liquid has cleaning and rehabilitating effect in the nasal tract and should not be blown frequently. Moreover, I suggest that it be held as long as possible for faster results. If both nostrils are congested, we should breathe through mouth, and stay away from high pollen spaces, especially outdoors. We should filter the air we breathe through mouth by A/C and/or piece of cloth.
Hence, I think one should consume plenty of liquids to provide his body with raw material to produce the nasal fluid. ...And do not try to save on tissues!
Congestion is also necessary during immune reaction. Just like road construction crews close a highway temporarily for repairs, immune system is doing exactly this!
Go out to play and rest in the nature after rains, not during "dry" days of pollination season. There are maps and tables showing pollination seasons in each state.
Do not allow draught (draft) to take place in the house - his may bring in more pollen inside.
If much pollen get inside the room, it is advised to hang moistened sheet in few corners which will act as pollen-catchers. Do not forget to wash away the pollen afterwards from those sheets!
Keep all windows closed and A/C on while your car is moving.
Most of the information I have used here is in public domain, but it is fragmented, and mentioned as secondary measures to prevent allergies. For instance Zyrtac's website gives a lot of natural ways of preventing allergies, behind its main endorsement - the medicine itself.
But it is up to us, people, to decide what is secondary and what is first thing to do. Each and every individual is obliged to learn at least basics of medicine to protect himself and his family against diseases and incompetent doctors, and other authorities.
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