Sia Mehra is very particular. She is careful about her diet and she covers herself well in the cold season. However, despite being so vigilant, she often suffers from a runny nose, sneezing and red, itchy and watery eyes. The onset appears to be sudden and Sia is left confused.
These are the classic symptoms of hay fever or allergic rhinitis, a type of inflammation in the nose.
According to The International Study of the Allergic Rhinitis Survey 2018, Allergic Rhinitis (AR) is a global health problem with a 15%-25% prevalence, affecting children, adolescents and young adults more than any other age groups.
Symptoms and Causes
Allergic rhinitis exhibits typical signs and symptoms of a cold, but unlike a cold, it is not caused by any virus.
It is the result of over reaction of the immune system to outdoor or indoor allergens.
Mostly it is seasonal, coinciding with the flowering season which witnesses more pollen in the air. Other allergens like grass pollen, animal dander (old skin), dust mites, mould and cat saliva can also be the cause.
People generally exhibit one or more symptoms immediately after exposure to the allergen.
Symptoms may include a stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, frequent headaches, dark circles under eyes, excessive fatigue, hives and eczema.
Allergic rhinitis is the body’s way to protect itself from the allergen. When exposed to any allergen, the body releases histamines, which are natural chemicals to defend it from the contact. This histamine causes the symptoms.
Allergic rhinitis can be of two types, seasonal and chronic. Seasonal rhinitis mostly happens in the Spring and Autumn, caused by outdoor allergens. Chronic Rhinitis can occur anytime during the year and is mostly caused by indoor substances like house paints, sprays, or dust mites. Few other factors like temperature fluctuations, sudden onset of cold, humidity, exposure to cigarette smoke, hairspray, perfumes, colognes, wood/coal smoke or fumes trigger or worsen allergic rhinitis.
What is the treatment?
The conventional treatment is prescription of anti-histaminic drugs that suppress the body’s response to allergens. Sometimes, doctors prescribe decongestants for two or three days to ease the stuffy nose or sinus issues. However, these drugs should be administered cautiously because taking them for long periods could result in serious implications.
Anyone can develop allergies, but family history makes you more susceptible. Having asthma might also increase your chances.
Ayurveda lists six characteristic symptoms of allergic rhinitis. These are sneezing, nasal congestion, headaches, breathlessness, itching in the nasal and throat region and nasal discharge.
Accumulation of toxins or 'Ama' in the body may occur due to multiple reasons, most common of which are weak digestion and low immunity. The build-up of toxins aggravates 'kapha’ (water) in the body that ultimately results in allergies.
First step towards the Ayurvedic way of healing is balancing the three doshas (biological energies found in the human body).
Ayurvedic treatment involves clearing the sinus, expelling the phlegm and detoxification according to the individual's dosha. Panchakarma is also recommended. Nasal drop therapy or Nasya can be administered under the supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor.
- Avoid eating junk, unhealthy food and wrong food combinations.
- Do not consume stale food.
- Avoid or restrict foods like wheat, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, oranges and peppers.
- Find time for regular exercise and relaxation to enhance optimum health and well-being.
- Follow regular mealtimes and don’t skip meals.
- Eat slowly and chew properly for effective digestion.
- Don’t sleep in the open.
- Avoid heavy, fermented and sour food, bananas, sweets, curd, ice creams, cakes, alcohol and cold beverages.
- Drinking milk boiled with freshly grated ginger and 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder is beneficial.
- If exposed to sudden cold rub eucalyptus oil on the chest at night.
What to Eat
- Light food, lukewarm water, rock salt and legumes are suggested.
- Have Amla (Indian Gooseberry) powder mixed with 1 teaspoon of honey twice a day.
- Add 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper powder, 1/2 teaspoon of liquorice root powder, 1.5 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, and 10-12 basil leaves to a cup of water. Boil until it is reduced to half. Drink when lukewarm in the morning and evening as a substitute for tea and coffee.
- Kashaya powder - Lightly roast, 1 cup coriander seeds, 1/2 cup cumin seeds, 1/4 cup fennel seeds and 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds. Grind finely and store. Make tea by boiling 1/2 cup milk and water each, and 1/2 teaspoon of Kashaya powder. Close the gas and add jaggery powder according to taste. Drink every morning.
- Drinking 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder boiled with a pinch of salt lessens the symptoms.
- Always carry few cloves and black peppercorns with you. Whenever you feel even a slight symptom keep two pieces in the mouth.
Allergic Rhinitis can cause great discomfort. Treating it the Ayurveda way removes the root cause and increases immunity. Ayurvedic remedies start showing improvement within a few days. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle with Ayurvedic treatment can be a lasting cure for this disease.
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer, and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting and travel.)