An allergy is defined as a condition that is caused by an inappropriate or exaggerated reaction by the body’s immune system. Harmless substances are misidentified by it as potentially dangerous, so the immune response is to form antibodies.
These attack the perceived irritants—or allergens—on the surface of the offending substance. The reaction between antibodies and allergens stimulates the release of substances within the body, such as histamine, which cause a variety of irritating symptoms.
• Rash or itchy swelling on the skin.
• Hay fever: irritation of mucous membranes in the sinuses, causing sneezing and the production of watery catarrh.
• Asthma: possible spasms and narrowing of the airways.
• Inflamed and possibly watering eyes.
• Possible nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
• In severe cases of type I allergy (see right), possible anaphylactic shock—a severe, nervous reaction that includes breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure, abdominal pain, swelling of the tongue or throat, and diarrhea.
Conventionally, allergies are described in terms of four categories of hypersensitivity reaction. Type I is the most common of the four, and is known as anaphylactic or immediate hypersensitivity. It includes allergies to pollens, animal dander, house dust, dust mites, some drugs, yeast, insect venom, and certain foods, especially milk, eggs, shellfish, nuts, and some dried fruits. These allergens stimulate the body to produce a specific kind of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE), which coats cells in the skin, sinuses, lungs, and stomach. When a further exposure to the allergen occurs, the immunoglobulin antibodies become attached to cells in body tissues called mast cells. In response, these cells release chemicals, mainly histamine, which cause allergic reactions. Asthma, hay fever, urticaria, anaphylactic shock, some forms of eczema, and food allergy are type I allergies.
immune complexes. These travel around the body in the bloodstream and can lodge anywhere, stimulating the immune system further. This mechanism is responsible for reactions to immunization and allergic alveolitis (inflammation of the alveolar walls in the lungs). Type IV is known as delayed hypersensitivity. T-cells (white blood cells) combine with antigens and release chemicals called lymphokines, which cause inflammation. These chemicals are responsible for measles rashes and contact dermatitis.
Homeopathic medicine Where there is only one allergy (a fixed allergy), homeopathic treatment is similar to conventional treatment. Constitutional treatment is used to correct imbalances in the body, and to discourage the immune system from overreacting. Such treatment is even more beneficial when there is not a fixed allergy but a cyclic allergy situation. This is when, even though the sources of irritation are removed from the diet, the body develops oversensitivity to something else. In this case, it is necessary to investigate the malfunctioning of the immune system, which may be due to an inherited weakness or body imbalances. The choice of constitutional remedy will
largely be determined by an individual’s symptoms (see page 18). Apis is indicated for allergic swelling of the face, eyelids, lips, or mouth. Arsen. alb. is prescribed for allergic reactions associated with the nose such as allergic rhinitis and hay fever. Calc. carb. is used to treat allergic reactions of the skin and mucous membranes; while Carcinosin is indicated when there are multiple allergies. Other constitutional remedies often used include Nat. carb., Nat. mur., Nux vomica, Pulsatilla, Sulphur, and Tuberculinum. Acute symptoms can be treated with a number of other remedies, such as Allium cepa, for hay fever with profuse watering of the eyes and catarrh that irritates and inflames the nostrils and upper lip; and Arundo, when there is great itchiness around the nostrils and palate, with sneezing, pain in the bridge of the nose, and copious saliva. Wyethia is prescribed for great itchiness in the nose and palate, which the person constantly rubs with the tongue; and Arum triph. is effective for cracked lips and hoarseness.