The sneezes, wheezes, running eyes, itchy noses, and ears that come with the months of spring and summer can now be cured with modern medication. Simple measures assist babies and children with irritable rashes or skin complaints rampant at this time of the year.
So are itchy ears, parched dry throats, and skin. There is that irresistible urge to scratch, scratch, scratch.
The more you scratch the more uncomfortable the area becomes. The more you rub your eyes, ears, and nose the less it seems to bring relief.
For lots of Americans this is the most unpleasant time of the year – even though temperatures are a delight and for others the pleasures of living are at their highest. These are the allergy months and they are likely to continue for many weeks to come.
The problems are caused by masses of unseen pollens gently wafting about in the upper-air layers. They silently move about by the ton, unfelt and unseen. The majority come from flowering grasses sometimes many miles away. In rural regions clovers and other grasses are a profusion of blooms, gentle winds and air currents carry the particles high into the air and far away.
But when these elements are inhaled by sensitive individuals, problems suddenly loom. The body produces a chemical called histamine and this can very quickly produce unwanted and unpleasant symptoms.
The ones mentioned are the most common. But in some who are super sensitive the results are even more unpleasant. Breathing difficulties are frequent. A sudden onset of the sneezes can commonly set in. This may continue for hours or even days. It is the system’s effort to try and rid itself of the invading particles.
In many individuals this may lead to actual asthma and the unhappy wheezing and breathing difficulties of the asthmatic are well known at this time of the year.
So instead of the warming months of spring being a time of happiness and comfort they are a period of sheer hell.
However, the lot of the hay-fever victim has changed quite a deal in recent times. All is not lost and recent advances are doing a great deal to improve the situation.
For many years there was no really satisfactory form of therapy. Ephedrine formed the basis of treatment. This was given in the form of tablets or maybe injections and drops.
But for many it wasn’t very effective. A later product called pseudo-ephedrine helped more sufferers. It seemed to screen out some of the side reactions of ordinary ephedrine. It is still used by many.
Later this treatment was largely replaced by the antihistamine products which burst on the medical scene several years ago. These did as their name suggested.
The trouble-maker caused by invading foreign protein particles (such as pollens and similar products) was histamine. So chemicals aimed at neutralizing this was devised. With these an enormous benefit came forth. Many were extremely effective and seemed to wipe out symptoms rapidly.
But very soon it became apparent that all was not well. Although they “cured” the patient for as long as he continued to swallow medication it was not very long-lasting. The other problem was the intense fatigue that it often induced. In fact many patients on therapy simply went to sleep. This could last anything from a few hours to several days.
It was not unknown to take a pill Friday night and wake up Sunday night. Truly a lost weekend!
Research came up with variations of the original forms. But these, while excellent in many cases, often had a similar effect.
Then came the long-term antihistamines. These were coated with a product that made possible the chemical’s release on a time basis. Instead of three tablets a day only one was needed.
But once more side effects were identical. Anyone working machinery or driving a vehicle as part of his bread-winning routine was often hard-pressed. Either he took medication and was in a daydream or didn’t take therapy and was dogged by his symptoms.
This was all very inconvenient and disabling for a person who had to remain mentally alert and active long term.
Then suddenly a newcomer came on the medical scene. This was in the form of sodium cromoglycate. Rather than merely chopping back the effects of histamine this material seemed to go much deeper.
Its benefit was that symptoms were prevented before they appeared. Originally it was presented as an effective cure for asthma. As long as medication was taken the chances of attacks of asthma were markedly reduced. Asthma and hay-fever are closely related as both are allergic in nature.
Cromoglycate is inhaled and many patients all over Australia take this on a regular basis anywhere from one to four times a day.
A hay-fever version was soon worked out. This is used with a device called an insufflator. A capsule is fitted into the tube leading from a rubber bulb. The tube is inserted into each nostril alternately and the bulb compressed. This sends a fine stream of the powder (from the capsule) into the nostril and nasal airways:
At the same time the person inhales. This carries the chemical deep inside. In a huge number of patients the results are little short of miraculous. Sometimes additional medication is needed but this is not frequent. It has brought symptom-free, side-effect-free relief in a simple very effective way.
But medicine is continually on the move. Toward the end of last year another unrelated product appeared on the horizon and became a reality in Australia. This one is called Beclomethasone. It is also an aerosol and is inhaled through the mouth.
It is devised mainly for the asthmatic. Used on a regular basis before attacks occur it can effectively reduce or entirely eliminate the onset of asthmatic attacks.
But the next step on has been its application to hay-fever. Although a special pack for this use is not yet available in Australia many are using the asthma pack and reducing the size of the outlet hole in the spray nozzle.
Instead of being sprayed down the throat it is inhaled into the nostrils. The beneficial effects are striking. Hay-fever symptoms are cut back and in many cases they disappear.
Several large-scale trials have been carried out overseas and reported in the major medical journals. Australian doctors always alert to what is going on overseas have given it a trial with many patients and been surprised and delighted at the outcome.
For severe cases the so-called steroid drugs are still available. But these are very potent and are not usually needed nor recommended for hay-fever. They are reserved generally for severe cases of intractable asthma.
Lots of youngsters are worried about summer weather by chafing and irritability of the skin. Even babies are caught up with the problem. This is often a combination of allergy and skin sensitivity plus heat. Heat often aggravates all these factors.
Usually changing children and babies from materials and clothing to which they are obviously sensitive and replacing with other types generally helps the problem.
Applying soothing lotions and anti-itch creams generally eliminate the problem also. In hot weather perspiring often produces discomfort as well. Frequent baths in lukewarm water then dabbing the skin dry with a soft towel often brings relief.
Today the problems of hot weather can often be substantially reduced. Comfortable living free from the unpleasant side effects of pollens, heat, winds, and allergies is merely a matter of correct medication and commonsense measures.