Saturday, 27 April 2013

Allergy Myths - Part 1

Having been an allergic rhinitis sufferer for years, I've come across many allergy misconceptions by others who are not allergy sufferers. I think sometimes even allergy sufferers themselves are abit confused between myths and reality. Here, I list some allergy myths and give my take on them: 

# 1 Myth: Allergies can be cured

Reality: Sad to say, there are currently no cures for allergies.  Allergy shots, otherwise known as Immunotherapy, is probably the most advance medical treatment we have now for allergy.  If any quack doctors tells you otherwise, RUN.

However, one can manage and keep allergy under relatively good control with the right diagnosis and combination treatment such as antihistamine, saline irrigation, natural health supplements, alternative healing (e.g. acupressure, acupuncture, traditional chinese medication etc), diet and exercise.

I do hope that in my lifetime, medical technology can advance to a stage where there is a real permanent cure for allergies.

# 2 Myth: Allergies are harmless
Reality: Allergies are a serious problem and should not be ignored. Untreated allergies significantly impact our quality of life. It causes poor quality sleep, fatigue and negatively affects one's social life. Who wants to go out and play or entertain friends with a sneezy and congested nose that can hardly breathe?

Untreated allergies can also worsen and allergy sufferer may develop other chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, sinusitis and eczema. Although allergic rhinitis is not life threatening (unless one has underlying asthma condition), those with serious food or drug allergies may get anaphylaxis - an allergic reaction which can be fatal.

It really gets on my goat when some people fail to understand the seriousness of our condition. And this is despite giving them "education" and print-outs written by doctors about allergic rhinitis. They simply brush it off and do not take it to heart. It saddens me, but I am grateful and appreciate the understanding and support that my most beloved one has given me.

#3 Myth: If you didn't have allergies as a child, you're in the clear as an adult
Reality: "Years ago, people thought that allergy was a childhood phenomenon," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, a clinical assistant professor in the division of allergy at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "We now know the immunologic mechanism and realize that people with allergies have a genetic predisposition to develop an allergy; this can occur at any time even adults can develop allergy symptoms."

New exposures e.g relocation to another region, having a new pet, may trigger allergic reactions to allergens. Also, our sensitivity to allergens can also change with time, e.g during pregnancy or menopause, after a severe bout of illness etc.

I am a good example of this myth. Both my parents have allergic rhinitis. I was not born with it. In fact I was allergy free until I was about 14 years old. Likewise for one of my sisters.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Quercetin & Me

What is Quercetin?
Quercetin is a plant-derived flavonoid found in fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains. It is found in small doses in beans and leafy green vegetables, but larger amounts in onions, apples, grapefruits, red wine, buckwheat, green tea and black tea.

Quercetin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It is known to act as a natural antihistamine. Thus Quercetin supplements may help to treat allergies, inflammation and cardiovascular diseases.

My experience with Quercetin
Tired of taking OTC antihistamine, I thought of searching for a natural health supplement that can help alleviate my allergic rhinitis. I read alot and found that Quercetin has very good reviews in many websites from users suffering from allergic rhinitis or sinusitis. So I decided to try it and have been on it for about half a year.

I observed that it reduced the severity of my allergic rhinitis symptoms, but not really the frequency of my attacks. I took 500mg x2 daily. I have read that its more effective to take on empty stomach, but unfortunately, my gastric is quite sensitive and I experienced discomfort taking it on empty stomach. Had no choice but to take it after meals, which works fine for me.

Like any health supplement, I think it works better for some and less so for others, depending on individual condition. Perhaps it would have been more effective if I was able to take it on empty stomach. For me, I still plan to continue with it as it does help reduce the severity of my allergic rhinitis attacks, meaning I can take less OTC antihistamine. Moreover, its not expensive and can be purchased easily online here.

Note: Please discuss with your healthcare provider before taking Quercetin to ensure suitability for your condition.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Classifying my Allergic Rhinitis Severity

Over the years of suffering from allergic rhinitis, I've come to have my own form of classifying the severity of my attacks.

The usual sneezing fits, runny nose, blocked nose. I think at this stage, the eye is usually not itchy. After sometime, maybe less than 2 hours or so, it will stop, via:
1) Simply recovered on its own; Phew, lucky me!
2) Or after drinking some hot soup/ meal;  It is known that steam helps to shrink the swollen mucous membrane and promotes drainage.
3) Or after some form of exercise. Exercise triggers the release of adrenaline, which narrows swollen blood vessels in the nose, acting as a natural decongestant.

The usual sneezing fits, runny nose, blocked nose + watery and itchy eyes likely to kick in. Its still bad after 2 hours and its not getting better with the things I do for the mild attack. I can feel the mucous membrane is very swollen and irritated. The more I blow my nose, the worse it gets. I'm starting to feel  exhausted from the sneezing and its affecting the things I want to get done for the day. If I'm at home and can afford the time, I will lie down on the bed to get some rest. After about an hour or so, it gets alot better and I can get round doing things without the sneezing fits, though there will still be some occasional blowing of the nose to clear residual mucus.

Big time attack that sees no respite with whatever I do. The sneezy fits, runny nose, blocked nose, itchy and watery eyes are still there after the bed rest. Totally exhausted and feeling crappy. Don't talk to me - because you either can't hear me talk clearly with the stuffy nose & all or am just not in the mood to talk. Give me the antihistamine please!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Allergy Relief with Acupressure Points

For those of you who are sick of taking antihistamines and allergy medications and are open to try alternative healing, I encourage you to try pressing these acupressure points on regular basis for better effects. I'm going to try doing that myself too!

Acupressure works just like acupuncture in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but without the needles. It has the added convenience of being able to administer it on your own at anytime, anywhere. These 2 points that are being demonstrated in this video by Dr Michael Reed Gach (Ph.D. in Health Sciences) are also some of the acupuncture points that my TCM physician administer on me. For more details about these 2 acupressure points, read here .

Edit: I've asked Dr Michael Reed Gach if these pressure points work for other allergies like food allergy or eczema and he said yes! So do give it a try and see if it helps in alleviating your allergy condition.

Update: Read new post here on Acupressure points and allergic rhinitis by registered acupuncturist Ka Hang Leoungk

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Yawning and Rhinitis

I had a bad rhinitis episode the day before that lasted from early afternoon to at night. I'm pretty sure its not triggered by allergens, but rather by excessive yawning. It has happened on many occasions before whereby I started yawning quite a fair bit, then followed by teary eyes and abit of mucus - all these symptoms are quite normal for a person yawning. But then it will escalate into runny nose and I start blowing my nose and it gets stuffy and blocked and then the sneezing fits start. It feels as if its my allergic rhinitis attack, only without the itchy eyes.

I was contemplating if I should reach out for my antihistamine medication but decided not to even though I was feeling quite aweful. I must say that after all these years, I have developed quite a high threshold for my allergic rhinitis misery and being into natural stuff and all, I try my best to avoid taking antihistamine medication unless absolutely necessary. After dinner, it was still bad. I was seriously thinking I should take my medication, but thought since its already night time, perhaps I should just turn in earlier and I should feel ok after a night's sleep.

Thankfully, I woke up feeling alot better! But I never understood why my yawning would sometimes trigger symptoms similar to allergic rhinitis. Has anyone had similar experience or can shed some light on why this is happening? I tried googling, but found nothing that correlates yawning with rhinitis.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Blog Update

Hi all,
Hope you have a good week so far. Just to let everyone know that I'm still in the midst of fully setting up this blog, so some pages are still blank or in the process of updating and I am still playing around with the format etc. So don't be surprise if you see things changing here and there during this period of time.

Are Allergies In The Genes?

Both my parents suffer from either allergic rhinitis and or sinusitis, which is why I ended up inheriting their allergies. I'm not blaming them. As a parent myself, I know no parent in this world would wish for their child to have any allergies. Its a life-long suffering and it gets depressing when doctors tell you that allergies can't be cured, it can only be managed. Even in traditional chinese medicine (TCM), the physicians I have seen said the only way is to improve the immune system and minimize exposure to allergens. There is no permanent cure.

I believe my dad has either "outgrown" or his allergy is very much in control as I hardly see him having sneezing fits. I heard from my aunt that my dad used to run to the toilet at home every morning to blow his mucus-filled nose. He never had an allergy test done. My mum's allergy is also pretty much in control. And out of my 3 siblings, one has hives when she was young; another has mild allergic rhinitis, though she never got it tested as it was not as severe as mine; and another sibling is allergic to a specific type of shellfish which he only discovered recently upon eating it. Oh and did I mention that on top of allergic rhinitis, I also have drug allergy like my mum?

Probabilities of Inheriting an Allergy

Here's some statistics on the probability a child may inherit an allegy from their parents. These statistics are based on what doctors have told me. In general, if both parents suffer from allergies, their child is likely to have 70% chance of inheriting an allergy. If only 1 parent has allergy, then chances are 50%. And even if both parents are allergy-free, there is still a small chance of 10% that the child may get an allergy. Doctors have also said that a child may not inherit the same specific allergy as their parents. This is so true. Just look at my family history of allergies...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Surviving the Spring Allergy Season

For those who have seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as Hay Fever, you know spring is here through your nose. Increased sneezing,  stuffy nose, runny nose, itchy eyes and post-nasal drip as outdoor allergens like pollen, weeds, grass and spores fill the air. Here in Singapore where climate is warm and humid all year round with no seasonal change, I believe allergy to outdoor allergens is less common. I think its a pain when spring is here and its time to venture outdoors but yet one is suffering from these outdoor allergens. And to make things worse, USA Daily reported that this year's allergy spring season may be longer and stronger due to global warming. This is something that is beyond our control. But what is within our control is to take appropriate steps to keep the allergy in control as much as possible. Here's some survival tips I have gathered:

 -Check when (and where) pollen count is highest. 
You can use this handy tool located at the sidebar on the right here for pollen forecast. Alternatively, you can download the allergy alert application into your handphone here.

-When is pollen count the highest? In the early morning.
Avoid outdoor activities when pollen count is highest. Close doors and windows if possible and switch to air-conditioning. Wear a good mask if you have to go out.

-If you have to engage in outdoor activities for extended period of time, take antihistamine at least an hour before you step out. My experience is it takes an hour or more for the effect to kick in.

-Take a shower after you have spent time outdoors as you are covered with allergens from head to toe. Last thing you want is polluting your house with these allergens.

-Keep the windows shut if you are driving.

-Don't hang your laundry out to dry.

-If you are already on allergy health supplements like Quercetin, increase the dosage during the spring season.

-Increase frequency of saline nasal rinse or spray.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Creepy Dust Mites

Watching this short clip of dust mites on a mattress under the microscope is enough to make my hair stand! Can you imagine we are bedding them every night? Yikes!

Credit: AllergyNet Australia - a blog started by Dr John Weiner, a medical consultant in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases and asthma.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Are You Fussy About Your Tissues?

Allergic rhinitis and sinus sufferers out there use plenty of tissues. I wonder if they are as fussy about the tissues they use as I am. I use alot of then whenever I get a trigger and so I'm quite particular about the tisuse quality as it is constantly rubbing my nose. I look for 3 qualities in my tissues:

1) Hypoallergenic - means having reduced likelihood of causing an allergic response. The one am using is 100% virgin pulp. I hate those tissues that disintegrate into bits very quickly when wet and feels grainy and your poor nose gets even more irritated. You risk getting small bits of tissues stuck on your nose, without you knowing. Unsightly.

2) 3-Ply - because I have so much mucus whenever my allergic rhinitis or sinus acts up, the tissues gotta be thick and absorbent. I find that 2-Ply tissue gets soaking wet in just a single blow or two. The packet tissues that I use are 2-Ply ones, but the price is economical and quality is good. So I use 2 sheets each time, meaning it becomes 4-ply, lol!

3) Soft - with the constant rubbing of my nose, no way will I use something that is otherwise, unless I run out of my own tissues and I'm really deseparate.

I have a box of tissue in each room and I always bring along with me at least 2-3 packets of tissues when I'm out. Even if its for a short 10mins drive out to send my boy to school. Dustmites are everywhere, and I never know when my allergy will get triggered. The last thing I want is to have a sneezy dripping nose and hunting high and low for a sheet of tissue in the public.