Monday, 13 January 2014

Hay Fever. Why Homeopathy?


Any allergy, including Hay Fever, is a reaction to a substance that your body should routinely be able to cope with, but for some reason is failing to do so. Hay Fever is a sign of imbalance in the immune system, making us vulnerable to ‘harmless’ substances, such as pollen, grass, dust, etc. Allergic reactions like this can significantly disrupt our lives, causing sneezing, stuffy and runny noses, watery eyes, itching, headaches, and even asthma.

CONVENTIONAL MEDICAL TREATMENT.

Conventional medicine treats hay fever mainly with drugs such as Antihistamines, Steroids, or use what they call ‘desensitisation’ treatments. As a last resort, laser surgery may be used to destroy the mucus-forming nasal tissue.

Antihistamine Drugs
The NHS Choices website says that Antihistamine drugs (such as cetirizine, fexofenadine, loratadine) treat hay fever by “blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it is under attack from an allergen”. This, they say, “prevents the symptoms of the allergic reaction from occurring”.

NHS Choices says that Antihistamines can be used either as a preventative, or as an ‘as-required’ treatment. They are “usually effective at treating itching, sneezing and watery eyes, but they may not help with clearing a blocked nose”.

NHS Choices mentions drowsiness as an adverse reaction, but state that ‘newer’ antihistaines should not do so, but that if they do, you should avoid driving or using tools or machinery.

Yet it is known that Antihistamine drugs cause far far more side effects than this, especially in children and older people. 

Some of the most common side-effects caused by Antihistamines include not just sleepiness, but headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, dry mouth, constipation, and difficulty passing urine. 

But Antihistamine drugs are also known to worsen conditions, which NHS Choices fail to mention, such as glaucoma, enlarged prostate gland, difficulty in passing urine, or bowel blockage, and amazingly, their safety during pregnancy has not been established. They are also know to increase the risk of liver or kidney disease.

And, as with most conventional drugs, once the effect of the drug has passed, hay fever symptoms usually return.

Steroid Drugs
Steroids (corticosteroids) for hay fever are available as sprays, creams and tablets. The NHS Choices website says that Corticosteroid drugs can reduce the inflammation that causes Hay Fever, and so prevent the symptoms from happening. They tell us that Corticosteroid drugs are more effective than antihistamine tablets at preventing and relieving nasal symptoms, including sneezing and congestion. They can also relieve itchy, watery eyes.

As usual, NHS choices mentions just a few side effects, including irritation and dryness of the nose, nose bleed, an unpleasant taste in your mouth, and itchy skin rash around the nose. They also say that the drugs are not recommended for more than 10 days - because of the “unpleasant side effects” such as weight gain, changes in mood, and acne.

Yet, in fact, Steroid drugs cause more problems than Antihistamine drugs. They are known to cause dangerous adverse reactions, such as high blood pressure, bleeding from the bowels or stomach, reduced healing, poor muscle growth, weight gain, and electrolyte imbalances. And long term use of Steroid drugs (not recommended, but remember that once the effect of the drug wears off Hay Fever return) increases the likelihood of diabetes, glaucoma, and eye damage. They have psychological effects too - they are known to cause not only mood swings, but personality changes, agitation, nervousness, tiredness, lack of energy, and depression. 

Immunotherapy or Desensitisation Treatments
This is what NHS Choices says about Immunotherapy:
“If you have persistent hay fever symptoms which are not relieved by the above treatments, your GP may refer you for immunotherapy treatment. This involves gradually introducing you to small amounts of the allergen (the substance that you are allergic to), such as pollen, and monitoring your allergic reaction”.

This treatment is, of course, based on Homeopathy, which works on the basis of ‘Like curing Like’. So Desensitisation treatments are an example of conventional medicine unwittingly making use of homeopathic principles! Even so, NHS Choices says that their treatment can take months, or even years to work, and can be dangerous. But Homeopathy, by using much smaller amounts of allergen, and in potency, can produce faster, safer and better results!

Laser Surgery
NHS Choices says that “Laser surgery is used to vaporise the mucus membranes of the nose to inhibit the symptoms of hay fever. Care has to be taken to prevent burning of the nasal tissue. Success is variable and re-vaporisation is often needed as symptoms will often return over time.

HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT

Many people have discovered Homeopathy when conventional treatments for Hay Fever fails. Homeopathy seeks to stimulate our body’s natural self-healing processes by matching the specific symptoms of the individual patient with a known symptom picture of a variety of remedy.

Many remedies are required as Homeopathy recognises that Hay-Fever is not one, single condition. Some sufferers suffer most in Spring, others in Summer. Some sneeze regularly and violently, others do not sneeze at all. Some have runny nose, or itchy eyes. Some sufferers are worse indoors, some outdoors. And so on.

There are many remedies known to treat Hay Fever successfully, the task being to match the individual patient with a ‘similar’ remedy. Here are just a few of the most frequently used remedies for acute attacks, with simple descriptions, taken from this excellent ‘Homeopathy Plus’ website.

The article explains some sensible self-help measures that can reduce the frequency and intensity of Hay Fever symptoms, such as drinking plenty of water, knowing and avoiding what you are allergic too, and using food as medicine. But it also gives some common remedies, with simple remedy pictures for each one.

Arsenicum
This is one of the best remedies for hay fever.  Burning or itching in the nose, eyes or throat being a strong indication.  The discharges from both eyes and nose will be burning (but check to make sure that Allium cepa or Euphrasia are not better indicated – Euphrasia has the opposite symptoms). An improvement of the symptoms in the open air, although sensitive to light, is usually an indication for this remedy.

Euphrasia
A classic remedy for hay fever where, again, there is lots of sneezing with streaming eyes and nose.  If the water from the eyes burns the cheeks and the discharge from the nose is not too bad, this remedy is needed.  (Allium cepa has the opposite symptoms). The remedy is indicated if the symptoms improve in the open air – obviously away from pollen.  Sensitivity to light may be apparent in both Euphrasia and Allium cepa.

Nat Mur
Initially, there is a streaming, bland discharge from both the eyes and nose with lots of sneezing.  Later, there is nasal discharge that is thick and clear like the white of an egg with loss of taste and smell.  This is not one of the main remedies for hay fever but it can bring great relief to the type who gets easily burned, feel generally miserable, uncomfortable, blotchy and irritated in the sun.

Nux vom
This is one of the best remedies for when there is lots of sneezing, streaming from the eyes and nose, and an irritable, nasty mood.  (If they are sweet tempered, it is unlikely to help.) The symptoms are worse in dry air and relieved when the atmosphere is damp.

Pulsatilla
The main indications for this remedy are a weepy, needy, state of mind, together with discharges that are thick, bland (not acrid) and green or yellow.  Pulsatilla frequently has one side of the nose blocked or congested.

Sulphur
Watery, burning nasal discharge, or a blocked nose, when outside. Frequent sneezing. Blocking of nose on alternate sides. Burning pain in eyes. Symptoms worsened by warmth and becoming warm in bed. Better for being in open air. May be lazy, opinionated, and desire sweets, alcohol, and spicy food.

And it also describes other helpful, but less commonly indicated remedies such as:

Ambrosia artemisaefolia
Intolerable itching and watering from eyes. Burning of eyes. Sneezing and watery nasal discharge. Nose and head feel stuffy. Nose bleeds.

Arum triphyllum
Irritation or itching in the nose leading to boring, picking, rubbing. May pick at lips and face. Throat, mouth, tongue, and palate may burn, making it difficult to eat or drink despite having a thirst. People who need Arum-t may experience concurrent hoarseness and peeling or chapping of the lips.

Histaminum
Consider this remedy when either no other remedy seems accurate or if other remedies have been tried and haven’t worked.

Kali bich
Consider this remedy when thick, stringy, green or yellowish mucus from the nose or throat is present. There may also be a post-nasal or pain at the root of the nose relieved by hard pressure.

Sabadilla officinarum
Hay fever with frequent, spasmodic sneezing that exhausts the person. Sneezing from tickling inside the nose, and sneezing that causes the eyes to water. Profuse, watery nasal discharge and red and burning eyelid margins. Symptoms worse in the open air, better in a warm room. Dry mouth but little thirst.

Solidago
Burning, stinging eyes. Paroxysms of sneezing with mucus discharge from nose.One of the main remedies for people allergic to house dust mite.

Wyethia helenoides
Tremendous itching of the upper palate of the mouth causing the person to make “clucking” noises in effort to provide some relief. Itching of the nose and throat, along with a constant desire to swallow saliva to relieve the dryness may also be present.

RANDOMISED CONTROLLED TESTS

The information in this section is taken largely from this website, which states that “the homeopathic treatment of allergic rhinitis has been well documented in scientific research”.

A study by Taylor et al, published in the British Medical Journal in 2000, showed a statistically significant improvement in objectively measured nasal air flow for patients treated with homeopathy compared to placebo. The study was carried out by doctors at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital who used homeopathy in 50 patients suffering from nasal allergies by giving them either a homeopathic preparation or a placebo. The study concluded that those given the homeopathic treatment were10 times more likely to be cured than those given a dummy pill. It was the fourth trial carried out by this hospital on homeopathy for allergies and all had produced similar results.

Taylor, M. A., Reilly, D., et al: Randomised controlled trial of homoeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial series. BMJ, 321: 471-476, 2000.

The four studies completed by Taylor and colleagues all looked at the effectiveness of homeopathy for allergic rhinitis treatment (Hay Fever).  A meta-analysis review of these and other studies by Jonas et al. for the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that these studies were high-quality, double-blind, placebo controlled trials significantly better than placebo on both subjective (reported) and objective (measurable) outcomes.

Jonas, W.B. et al: A Critical Overview of Homeopathy, Annals of Internal Medicine, 138:5,  393-400, 2003.

Studies testing individual homeopathic remedies for allergic rhinitis include Wiesenauer’s randomized controlled trials of Galphimia for pollinosis which were reported to show significantly more effectiveness of Galphimia than placebo when reviewed in a meta-analysis by Linde in 2001.

Wiesenauer M, Lüdtke R: A meta-analysis of the homeopathic treatment of pollinosis with Galphimia glauca,Forsch Komplementärmed, 3:230-236, 1996.

Linde, K. et al, Systematic reviews of complementary therapies – an annotated bibliography. Part 3: Homeopathy, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1:4, 2001.

Similarly, Nobel published a placebo controlled randomized trial of Zicam in 2000 that showed a statistically significant better result for the homeopathic treatment when compared to placebo.

Sion Nobel: Daily Application Of The Homeopathic Remedy Zicam Allergy Relief Significantly Improves The Quality Of Life And Impairment In Patients With Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: The Internet Journal of Family Practice. 1:1,2000.

So, as this article rightly concludes:

“The effect of homeopathic treatment has been demonstrated through repeated controlled trials. While homeopathic remedies were used in all of these trials, in some cases “isopathic” types of homeopathy (medicines made from the allergens) were used”.