When adults have extremely itchy or painful lesions across their torso or face, the diagnosis may be shingles. It is essential that people with this condition visit a doctor for treatment, but some home remedies can help to relieve symptoms.
In the United States, there are up to one million estimated cases of shingles every year. Shingles refers to the reactivation of the dormant herpes varicella zoster virus after childhood. Aging, trauma, stress, or another illness can all activate the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend seeking medical advice as soon as any symptoms appear.
Some of these remedies may relieve pain and itchiness and improve healing:
1. Essential oils
People have used essential oils as herbal remedies for many years, often for skin conditions.
Some essential oils have properties that may help with skin irritation and healing These oils include:
Chamomile oil, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and can improve ulcers and pressure sores by aiding skin-cell regeneration.
Eucalyptus oil, which has anti-inflammatory properties and can increase the speed at which cancer patients sores heal.
Tea tree oil, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and can promote wound healing.
2. Cold compresses
Holding cool cloths or compresses against the rash site may assist in relieving itchiness and reducing inflammation.
People can lightly soak a natural cotton cloth or towel with cool water and wring it out before placing it on sore, itchy areas. They can then repeat this as necessary.
It is also best not to expose the skin to extreme temperatures, so people should avoid using ice baths or very hot water. Hot water will increase blood flow and potentially slow down the healing of sores, whereas ice will increase skin sensitivity.
3. Witch hazel
Researchers believe that witch hazel is more effective than chamomile for reducing inflammation and itchiness in some individuals.
It is possible to purchase witch hazel in a variety of forms, the most common of which are creams or witch hazel water. Many witch hazel creams are available online (visit Vivoderm.com).
People can apply witch hazel topically to areas of irritation and inflammation to achieve relief.
4. Cool baths
Taking cool baths or showers every day, with minimal scrubbing, will help to keep sores and blisters clean and reduce the risk of infection.
Cool water should also relieve sore and itchy spots, helping to prevent scratching, which could cause scarring.
5. Oat baths
Some studies suggest that oat extract may moisten dry skin and soothe sensitive and inflamed skin.
The FDA have approved colloidal oatmeal as a safe and effective treatment. Colloidal oat products usually exclude oat protein to prevent allergic reactions.
The active ingredients that help reduce inflammation include flavonoids and saponins. People can use oat products in a cool bath to help relieve pain and itchiness.
6. Gentiana scabra
Researchers have found that Gentiana scabra, a blue or purple flower occurring throughout North America, has a positive effect on pain relief in shingles and decreases the likelihood of postherpetic neuralgia.
By reducing inflammation in the skin, Gentiana scabra minimizes pain and promotes healing. A reputable Chinese medicine practitioner can prepare the herbal formula by boiling the plant in water. People can then take the remedy orally
A healthful diet is vital for preventing and fighting illness.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating a varied diet comprising many vegetables, fruits, and whole-grains as well as legumes, nuts, and lean meats.
People should aim to include orange, red, and green foods that contain the carotenoids lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and provitamin A in their diet. Carotenoids are very important for immune function, and occur in the following foods:
- orange foods: carrot, pumpkin, and apricot
- red foods: watermelon, red pepper, grapefruit, and cherry
- green foods: kale, parsley, spinach, melon, lettuce, and endive
Limiting trans and saturated fats, and avoiding added sugar and salt where possible can also reduce inflammation and improve immune function.
8. Vitamin supplements
Healthy individuals should not need to take supplements. However, individuals who are immune-compromised and over the age of 50 should consider supplementation to maintain good health and strong immunity.
There is a link between vitamin D and immune function. Many older people are at risk of low vitamin D levels, so they must ensure that they get sufficient sun exposure or take supplements to protect their immunity.
Taking vitamin C, zinc, and selenium supplements can also improve immunity in older adults.
However, taking high doses of vitamins and minerals can do more harm than good. Multivitamins, which contain lower and safer levels of many vitamins and minerals, are usually a better option.
9. Quit smoking
Smoking offers no health benefits and is always harmful. It is vital to quit smoking as it increases the risk of many cancers and diseases.
Smoking lowers immunity against infection, especially in older people, and can delay recovery and healing.
10. Reduce stress
Using meditation to relax and trying to rest when possible may help to reduce the symptoms of stress.
7 things you didn’t know about your brain
The brain — the central “control unit” of our bodies, repository of memories and emotions. Throughout history, philosophers have believed that the brain may even house that intangible essence that makes us human: the soul. What should we know about our brains?
The main organ of the human nervous system, the brain manages most of our bodies activities and processes information received from both outside and inside the body and is the very seat of our emotions and cognitive abilities, including thought, long- and short-term memory, and decision-making.
The first mention of this organ was recorded in an Ancient Egyptian medical treatise known as the “Edwin Smith surgical papyrus,” after the man who discovered this document in the 1800s.
Since then, our understanding of the brain has expanded immeasurably, although still we contend with many mysteries surrounding this key organ.
In this Spotlight, we look at some of the most important facts we have uncovered about the brain — and some aspects that remain to be understood.
1. How big are our brains?
Brain size varies widely, depending largely on age, sex, and overall body mass. However, studies have suggested that the adult male brain weighs, on average, about 1,336 grams, whereas the adult female brain weighs around 1,198 grams.
In terms of dimensions, the human brain isn’t the largest. Of all mammals, the sperm whale — an underwater denizen weighing an impressive 35–45 tons — is known to have the biggest brain. But, of all the animals on Earth, human brains have the largest number of neurons, which are specialized cells that store and transmit information by electrical and chemical signals.Traditionally, it has been said that the human brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, but recent investigations have questioned the veracity of that number. Instead, Brazilian neuroscientist has discovered that the number is closer to 86 billion neurons.
2. What makes a brain?
The human brain makes up, alongside the spinal chord, the central nervous system. The brain itself has three main parts:
The brain is globular in shape and made of soft tissue.
- the brainstem, which, like a plant’s shoot, is elongated, and which connects the rest of the brain with the spinal chord
- the cerebellum, which is located at the back of the brain and which is deeply involved in regulating movement, motor learning, and maintaining equilibrium
- the cerebrum, which is the largest part of our brains and fills up most of the skull; it houses the cerebral cortex (that has a left and a right hemisphere separated by a long groove) and other, smaller structures, all of which are variously responsible for conscious thought, decision-making, memory and learning processes, communication, and perception of external and internal stimuli
Brains are made of soft tissue, which includes gray and white matter, containing the nerve cells, non-neuronal cells (which help to maintain neurons and brain health), and small blood vessels.
They have a high water content as well as a large amount (nearly 60 percent) of fat.
The brain of the modern-day human — Homo sapiens sapiens — is globular, unlike the brains of other early hominids, which were slightly elongated at the back. This shape, research suggests, may have developed in Homo sapiens about 40,000–50,000 years ago.
3. How ‘hungry’ are our brains?
Despite the fact that the human brain is not a very large organ, its functioning requires a whole lot of energy.
“Although the [human] brain weighs only 2 percent of the body [mass], it alone uses 25 percent of all the energy that your body requires to run per day,” Herculano-Houzel explained in a presentation.
And why does the brain need so much “fuel?” Based on studies of rat models, some scientists have hypothesized that, while most of this energy is expended on maintaining ongoing thought and bodily processes, some of it is probably invested in the upkeep of brain cells’ health.
But, according to some researchers, at first sight, the brain, seemingly inexplicably, uses up a lot of energy during what is known as the “resting state,” when it is not involved in any specific, targeted activities.
According to James Kozloski, “Inactivity correlated networks appear even under anesthesia, and these areas have very high metabolic rates, tipping the brain’s energy budget toward a large investment in the organism’s doing nothing,” he writes.
But Kozloski’s hypothesis is that no large amount of energy is spent for no reason — so why does the brain seem to do it? In fact, he says, it doesn’t.
Energy spent “doing nothing,” he says, is actually put toward assembling a “map” of accumulating information and experiences that we can fall back on when making decisions in our day-to-day lives.
4. How much of our brains do we use?
One long-circulating myth has it that humans typically use only 10 percent of their brain capacity, suggesting that, if only we knew how to “hack into” the other 90 percent, we might be able to unlock amazing abilities.
The idea that we only use 10 percent of our brains is a myth. Actually, we use most of our brains pretty much all of the time.
While it remains unclear exactly where this myth originated and how it spread so speedily, the idea that we could somehow tap into as yet unclaimed brain power is certainly a very attractive one.
Still, nothing could be farther from the truth than this piece of urban lore. Just consider what we discussed above: even in a resting state, the brain is still active and requires energy.
Brain scans have shown that we use pretty much all of our brains all of the time, even when we’re asleep — though patterns of activity, and the intensity of that activity, might differ depending on what we’re doing and what state of wakefulness or sleep we’re in.
“Even when you’re engaged in a task and some neurons are engaged in that task, the rest of your brain is occupied doing other things, which is why, for example, the solution to a problem can emerge after you haven’t been thinking about it for a while, or after a night’s sleep, and that’s because your brain’s constantly active,” said neurologist Krish Sathian, who works at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.
“If it were true that we only use 10 percent of the brain, then we could presumably sustain damage to 90 percent of our brain, with a stroke […] or something like that, and not [experience] any effects, and that’s clearly not true.”
5. Right- or left-brained?
Are you right-brained or left-brained? Any number of Internet quizzes will claim to be able to assess whether you predominantly use the right or left hemisphere of your brain.
And this has implications about your personality: allegedly, left-brained people are supposed to be more mathematically inclined and analytical, while right-brained people are more creative.
But how true is this? Once more the answer, I’m afraid, leans toward “not at all.” While it is true that each of our hemispheres has slightly different roles, individuals do not actually have a “dominant” brain side that governs their personality and abilities.
Instead, research has revealed that people use both of the brain hemispheres pretty much in equal measure.
However, what is true is that the left hemisphere of the brain is more concerned with the use of language, while the right hemisphere is applied more to the intricacies of nonverbal communication.
6. How do brains change with age?
As we age, parts of our brain begin to shrink naturally and we begin to gradually lose neurons. The frontal lobe and the hippocampus — two key brain regions in regulating cognitive processes, including memory formation and recall — start shrinking when we hit 60 or 70.
As we age, we begin to lose neurons. But new research suggests that adult brains can also generate new cells.
This means that we could naturally begin to find learning new things, or performing several tasks at the same time, more challenging than before.
There is some good news, as well, however. Till not too long ago, scientists used to believe that once we started to lose neurons, that would be it — we would be unable to create new brain cells and had to resign ourselves to that.
However, it turns out that this isn’t true. Researcher Sandrine Thuret, from King’s College London in the United Kingdom, has explained that the hippocampus is a crucial part in the adult brain in terms of generating new cells.
(And this makes sense if you consider that it plays an important role in processes of learning and memory.)
The process in which new nerve cells are created in the adult brain is called neurogenesis, and, according to Thuret, estimates suggest that an average adult human will produce “700 new neurons per day in the hippocampus.”
This, she suggests, means that when we reach middle age, we will have replaced all the neurons that we had in this brain region in the beginning of our lives with ones that we produced during adulthood.
7. Is perception ‘a controlled hallucination?’
A great mystery of the human brain is linked with consciousness and our perception of reality. The workings of consciousness have fascinated scientists and philosophers alike, and though we are slowly inching closer to an understanding of this phenomenon, much more still remains to be learned.
Anil Seth, a professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience from the University of Sussex in the U.K., who specializes in the study of consciousness, has suggested that this intriguing process is based on a sort of “controlled hallucination,” which our brains generate to make sense of the world.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), qi is the vital energy that circulates through the body at all times. Practitioners believe that a qi deficiency is linked to the spleen and that rest and eating certain foods can treat the imbalance.
The concepts of TCM are not based in modern science but have their roots in ancient Chinese practices. TCM includes herbal remedies, acupuncture, and exercises such as tai chi or qigong.
While there is no scientific proof for qi or a deficiency of qi, many people understand these terms as ways to describe issues in the body as a whole — rather than taking the rigorous route that medical science does.
In this article, we will explore what a qi deficiency is, its symptoms and causes, and how it might be treated with rest and diet.
What is a qi deficiency?
According to TCM, qi is life force or vital energy. Everything in the world is made up of qi, including the physical body and the feelings a person has.
Followers and practitioners of TCM believe that to be balanced in life and free from physical or mental health issues, a person must have balanced qi. They suggest that illnesses or other conditions only appear when there is a qi imbalance or deficiency in the body.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)define qi as a vital energy that flows through the body, helping to maintain a person’s health. The NCCIH are interested in the ideas of TCM but do not focus on specific concepts, such as qi. Instead, the NCCIH take a more scientific view, looking at how these practices affect the body and their use in symptom management.
What are the symptoms?
Roughly translated, qi means energy, so, simply put, a qi deficiency means low energy. This low energy can affect the body as whole or just specific organs that cause different symptoms.
A general qi deficiency may cause some overall symptoms of fatigueand illness.
A 2015study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences uses the following five signs and symptoms to diagnose a qi deficiency:
- shortness of breath or no desire to talk
- spontaneous sweating
- a swollen tongue with teeth marks on the side
- a weak pulse
Causes of qi deficiency
The study also outlines a range of possible factors that can lead to a qi deficiency.
The authors suggest that there could be a link between qi deficiency and aging.
Some practitioners believe that there is a relationship between qi deficiency and chronic medical diseases and their complications, such as heart disease, hypertension, or stroke.
Qi deficiency may also result from using too much qi in daily life. Many people in the western world are constantly working or on-the-go, leading busy lives, leaving no time to relax.
According to TCM, leading such a stressful life with little downtime may quickly drain the body of vital energy, making a person more susceptible to qi deficiency and the illnesses that follow. Think of qi deficiency as being burned out, a condition that can cause the symptoms and conditions associated with stress.
Treatments for qi deficiency
TCM places great importance on treating the body as a whole rather than merely managing symptoms. Where western medicine might treat tiredness with stimulants, such as coffee, TCM concerns itself with addressing the issues causing the fatigue in the first place.
There is little quality scientific research to support topics such as qi and qi deficiency, and most of the evidence for treating qi deficiency is anecdotal.
That said, many people may find relief from symptoms by making some changes in their diet and lifestyle to support their qi balance or using alternative therapies, such as acupuncture.
Focus on rest
People with qi deficiency may work too hard, are always on the go, and never have downtime. To help balance the qi in the body, many TCM practitioners recommend a heavy focus on rest.
This can include:
- taking breaks throughout the day.
- making time to take a nap.
- doing relaxing activities, such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong.
Improve sleep patterns
People with a qi deficiency may have a tendency towards stress and may benefit from improving their sleep patterns. A study published inExperimental Neurobiologyreports that excessive stress is bad for both the body and the brain. Stress may activate the brain at night, making sound sleep difficult.
Reducing stress levels may help a person sleep better and have more energy or qi throughout the day. Try to find a set time to go to sleep and wake up each day, and aim to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Best foods for a qi deficiency
TCM suggests that a qi deficiency might be influenced by the spleen, which carries qi to other parts of the body. This is why a qi deficiency might occur in any area of the body.
To balance qi, TCM practitioners recommend eating foods that are good for the spleen.
Foods to eat
A healthful diet for a balanced qi includes:
- fermented foods for digestive health, including sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir
- healthful, energizing fats, such as olive oil, salmon, coconut oil, and avocados
- a wide variety of lightly cooked fruits, vegetables, and nuts
- adaptogenic herbs, such as ginseng, should be taken under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner or trusted TCM practitioner
Foods that are good for spleen qi include yang tonic foods and qi-circulating foods. According to TCM, these foods might warm the spleen and increase energy flow to the body.
Foods to eat for spleen qi include:
- malted grain beverages
- root vegetables including sweet potato and taro
- pumpkin and other squash
- miso soup
- orange peels
- mustard leaf
Foods to avoid for spleen qi include:
- refined sugar
- refined grains
- fried or salty foods
- iced or refrigerated foods or drinks
- dairy products
- citrus fruits
- yeasty foods, such as beer or dough
Spleen qi deficiency
In western medicine, the spleen is considered a non-vital organ. It is a small organ that helps filter blood and is part of the immune system, but people can live without it.
In TCM, the spleen is central to digestion and is considered a vital organ. The spleen is said to pull qi from all the foods we eat and deliver it to the rest of the body. When a TCM practitioner suspects a qi deficiency, they often look to treat the spleen first.
TCM pairs the stomach and spleen as the sources of digestion and the digestive system as a whole. Any imbalances in the spleen qi would create what western medicine calls gastrointestinal issues.
Spleen qi deficiency may cause symptoms such as:
- loss of appetite
- nausea or diarrhea
- gas or bloating
- varicose veins
- acid reflux
- trouble waking up in the morning
- brain fog throughout the day
- eating disorders
Other types of qi deficiency
TCM works on the basis that qi is everywhere in the body, so a qi deficiency in one body system or organ might cause different symptoms to a qi deficiency in another. For example:
Symptoms of a heart qi deficiency may include:
- sweating without exerting oneself
- palpitations when moving
- nightmares or restless sleep
- mood swings
Symptoms of a lung qi deficiency include:
- a cough, which may be mild but continuous
- shortness of breath
- low speaking voice
- a tendency to catch colds
Symptoms of a kidney qi deficiency include:
- cold limbs
- hair loss
- urinary problems
- very clear urine
Wheezing is a common symptom of various respiratory disorders that cause tightening in the throat. There are several ways a person can stop their wheezing at home without using an inhaler, but these will depend on the cause.
Wheezing happens when the airways are tightened, blocked, or inflamed, making a person’s breathing sound like whistling or squeaking. Common causes include a cold, asthma, allergies, or more serious conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Steam inhalation is an effective home remedy for wheezing.
The following home treatments for wheezing aim to open up the airways, reduce the irritants or pollution that a person breathes in, or treat the underlying causes of the wheezing.
If a person has asthma or another medical condition that causes wheezing, they should speak to our doctors in clinic and use the medications prescribed for it, such as an asthma inhaler.
Effective home remedies for wheezing include:
1. Steam inhalation
Inhaling warm, moisture-rich air can be very effective for clearing the sinuses and opening up the airways.Peppermint essential oil may have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. Research suggests that it may relax the muscles of the respiratory system, which could help to relieve wheezing and other respiratory problems.
If a steam bath does not appeal to you, a sauna room or hot shower can also help loosen congestion. Gently tapping on the back or chest and breathing deeply can help the steam work even better.
2. Hot drinks
Warm and hot drinks can help to loosen up the airways and relieve congestion.
Honey is a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, so adding a teaspoon of honey to a hot drink may further improve a person’s symptoms.
A 2017 study found that eating one tablespoon of honey twice a day, along with other treatments, helped to relieve throat congestion.
Some people find that peppermint or other menthol teas work well. A person can try experimenting with different teas to find one that helps.
3. Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises may help with COPD, bronchitis, allergies, and other common causes of wheezing.
A 2009 study found that certain yoga-inspired breathing techniques could help with breathing difficulties related to bronchial asthma, including wheezing.
Breathing exercises often include deep, regular inhalations and exhalations. A doctor or respiratory therapist can help with deciding the most effective breathing techniques.
A person may find that they have trouble breathing during a panic attack. Deep breathing exercises can also assist here. It may help to try slow breathing, focusing on breathing deeply into the stomach, and counting breathes.
A humidifier may help to reduce wheezing.
During the dry winter months, wheezing often gets worse. A humidifier in the bedroom can help loosen congestion and reduce the severity of wheezing.
A person can add peppermint or other oils to the water in the humidifier, though they should check the humidifier’s instructions before adding anything other than water.
5. Air filters
Many conditions that cause wheezing can get worse when the air is polluted or in response to allergens. A home air filter can reduce the presence of irritants that may trigger wheezing and breathing trouble.
6. Identifying and removing triggers
Chronic illnesses such as asthma and allergies may get worse in response to certain triggers, such as stress or allergens. Controlling these triggers, as much as possible, can help.
For instance, a person with a chronic respiratory condition who also has allergies might take allergy medication and avoid allergy triggers.
7. Allergy medications
People with allergies can benefit from a wide variety of allergy medications, including decongestants, corticosteroid tablets, and antihistamines.
Nasal sprays may be especially helpful to relieve a tight chest, congestion, and inflammation that can cause wheezing.
More severe allergies may require prescription allergy medication.
8. Allergy immunotherapy
Immunotherapy is a process of retraining the immune system not to react to allergens.
The most common form of immunotherapy is allergy shots. A person may need several treatments, but over time, immunotherapy can reduce the frequency of wheezing.
Immunotherapy may also be helpful for people with other chronic conditions, such as COPD, who also have allergies.
Bronchodilators are medications that help relax the lungs and prevent the airways from narrowing. They can help with wheezing caused by COPD and asthma.
Bronchodilators come in two forms:
- Short-acting bronchodilators. Sometimes known as rescue inhalers, these can stop an asthma or COPD attack.
- Long-acting bronchodilators. This variety helps relax the airways over the long-term, reducing the frequency and severity of wheezing episodes.
Bronchodilators should be obtained from a doctor and can then be used at home, as needed.
10. Other medications
A wide variety of medications can treat wheezing that is due to underlying illness. A person who experiences wheezing due to a severe allergic reaction, for instance, may require epinephrine or corticosteroids.
People with heart health issues may take blood pressure medication or blood thinners to prevent further damage to the heart.
It is vital to discuss with a doctor whether medication might help, and how various medications may interact with one another.
The long-term outlook for wheezing ultimately depends on its cause. Even when wheezing is due to a chronic illness, it can often be well-managed with medication and home treatments.
Ongoing medical care remains important, however, and people whose symptoms do not improve should consult a doctor. Consider tracking symptoms to identify any underlying triggers for symptoms.
If wheezing is causing concern, it is essential to remain calm, as panicking can worsen wheezing. Keep the breathing slow and regular and seek medical treatment when appropriate.
Even when wheezing is due to a serious medical condition, medications can improve symptoms.
Treating allergic reactions
Allergies are a common cause of illness and can occur at any stage in someone’s life. Numerous different things cause allergies from pollen to food to medication, meaning it is not always easy to know the best treatments or home remedies.
What is an allergic reaction?
Many people have allergies, which may cause symptoms such as coughing and sneezing.
An allergic reaction occurs when cells in the immune system interpret a foreign substance or allergen as harmful.
The immune system overreacts to these allergens and produces histamine, which is a chemical that causes allergy symptoms, such as inflammation, sneezing, and coughing.
Mild allergic reactions can usually be treated with home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medications
Fast facts on treating an allergic reaction:
Most minor allergy symptoms can be treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, or decongestants.
Saline nasal rinses can be used for congestion-related allergy symptoms.
Corticosteroid creams can treat skin rashes related to allergies.
mmunotherapy is a long-term treatment option for chronic allergy symptoms.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency, and people should call 911 if they suspect someone is having an anaphylactic reaction.
Treating allergic reactions
Many mild to moderate allergic reactions can be treated at home or with OTC medications. The following treatments are commonly used to reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction:
Antihistamines can help to treat most minor allergic reactions regardless of the cause. These drugs reduce the body’s production of histamine, which reduces all symptoms, including sneezing, watering eyes, and skin reactions.
Second-generation antihistamines, including Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine), are less likely to cause drowsiness than first-generation antihistamines, such as Benadryl.
Antihistamines come in several forms, usually to help deliver the medication closer to the source of the reaction or make it easier to consume, such as:
- oral pills
- dissolvable tablets
- nasal sprays
- eye drops
Antihistamines in these forms are available from pharmacies, to buy online, or on prescription from a doctor.
Antihistamines can also be taken to prevent allergies. Many people with seasonal or pet allergies will begin taking antihistamines when they know they are going to be exposed to an allergen.
A person who is pregnant or has a liver disorder should consult their doctor before taking antihistamines.
Nasal decongestant pills, liquids, and sprays can also help reduce stuffy, swollen sinuses and related symptoms, such as a sore throat or coughing.
However, decongestant medications should not be taken continuously for more than 72 hours.
Nasal decongestants are available over the counter and online.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may also be used to help temporarily reduce pain, swelling, and cramping caused by allergies.
Avoid the allergen
The best way to treat and prevent allergic reactions is to know what triggers the reaction and stay away from it, especially food allergens.
When this is not possible or realistic, using antihistamines or decongestants when in contact with allergens can help to treat the symptoms.
Use a saline sinus rinse
A saline sinus rinse may treat symptoms such as a runny or itchy nose.
When allergies cause sinus problems, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) recommend a person rinse their sinuses with saline. This can remove allergens and clear the airways.
The AAAAI recommend the following saline recipe:
- mix 3 teaspoons of salt (without iodide) with 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- add 1 teaspoon of this mixture to 8 ounces of boiled water
- dissolve the mixture in the water then use as a saline rinse
Sinus rinsing devices can be purchased online or from a pharmacy.
Treating environmental allergies
For airborne allergens, such as pollen, dust, and mold spores, additional treatment options include:
- throat lozenges with soothing ingredients, such as menthol, honey, or ginger
- shower and wash all clothing after being exposed to an allergen
- exercise for a few minutes to help reduce nasal congestion
Treating allergies on the skin
For allergic reactions that cause skin symptoms, including those associated with allergens found in animal saliva, poisonous plants, drugs, chemicals and metals, additional treatment options include:
- Topical corticosteroid creams or tablets. Corticosteroids contain steroids that reduce inflammation and itching. Mild forms of these creams can be found online, and a doctor can prescribe stronger versions.
- Moisturizing creams. Emollient creams with soothing ingredients, such as calamine can treat skin reactions.
- Bite or sting medication. Medication targeted to reduce allergic reactions to insect bites or stings have a similar effect to other allergy medications.
- Ice pack. Applying an ice pack wrapped in cloth to the area for 10- to 15-minute intervals can reduce inflammation.
Treating severe allergies
People should speak to a professional if they have or suspect that they have severe or chronic allergies. You are always more than welcome to call our clinic for more information.
A doctor can prescribe medications that contain much stronger doses of the compounds found in OTC products.
Treatment options for chronic or severe allergies include:
- Immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Immunotherapy can be between 90 and 98 percent effective at reducing allergic reactions to insect stings, for instance.
- Prescription asthma medications, such as bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids.
- Oral cromolyn can be taken for food allergies.
- Drug desensitization therapy is used for specific allergens.
Natural remedies for allergic reactions
Many traditional medicine systems use herbal supplements and extracts to both treat and prevent allergic reactions, especially seasonal allergies.
Though there is little scientific evidence to support the use of most alternative or natural remedies, some people may find that some can provide relief from their symptoms.
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians recommend the following natural treatments for allergies:
- Dietary changes. A low-fat diet high in complex carbohydrates, such as beans, whole grains, and vegetables may reduce allergy reactions.
- Bioflavonoids. These plant-based chemicals found in citrus fruits and blackcurrants may act as natural antihistamines. These can also be taken as supplements.
- Supplements. Flaxseed oil, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E are suggested to improve allergy symptoms.
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture treatments may help some people to find relief from their symptoms.
The terms diastole and systole refer to when the heart muscles relax and contract. The balance between diastole and systole determines a person’s blood pressure.
The heart is a pump that supplies all tissues and organs of the body with oxygen-rich blood. The heartbeat is caused by the heart muscles relaxing and contracting.
During this cycle, the period of relaxation is called diastole and the period of contraction is called systole.
What are diastole and systole?
Diastole is when the heart muscle relaxes and systole is when the heart muscle contracts.
Diastole is defined by the following characteristics:
- Diastole is when the heart muscle relaxes.
- When the heart relaxes, the chambers of the heart fill with blood, and a person’s blood pressure decreases.
Systole is defined by the following characteristics:
- Systole is when the heart muscle contracts.
- When the heart contracts, it pushes the blood out of the heart and into the large blood vessels of the circulatory system. From here, the blood goes to all of the organs and tissues of the body.
- During systole, a person’s blood pressure increases.
The heart is a pump composed of four chambers. It is divided in the middle into a right and left side, and each side is divided further into two chambers — the upper and lower chambers.
The two upper chambers of the heart called the atria receive the blood that is entering the heart. The two lower chambers are called the ventricles. They pump the blood out of the heart to the rest of the body.
To pump the blood around the body, the heart contracts and then relaxes over and over again in a cycle called the cardiac cycle. The cycle begins when the two atria contract, which pushes blood into the ventricles. Then, the ventricles contract, which forces the blood out of the heart.
The deoxygenated blood that comes back from the body to the right side of the heart is then pumped through the lungs where it picks up oxygen. The oxygenated blood then travels to the left side of the heart and is pumped to the rest of the body.
Diastole and systole affect a person’s blood pressure differently, as follows:
- When the heart pushes blood around the body during systole, the pressure placed on the vessels increases. This is called systolic pressure.
- When the heart relaxes between beats and refills with blood, the blood pressure drops. This is called diastolic pressure.
What is a healthy blood pressure?
Normal blood pressure will be under 120/80 mmHg.
When a person receives their blood pressure results, they will see two numbers that represent the diastole and systole measurements. These measurements are given as millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
The first number is the systolic pressure and the second is the diastolic pressure.
According to the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) updated 2017 guidelines, the current blood pressure categories are:
- Normal blood pressure: under 120/80 mmHg
- Elevated blood pressure: a systolic pressure of between 120-129 and a diastolic pressure of under 80
- Stage 1 hypertension: a systolic pressure of between 130-139 or a diastolic pressure of between 80 and 89 mmHg
- Stage 2 hypertension: a systolic pressure of at least 140 or a diastolic pressure of at least 90 mmHg
These updated guidelines are likely to place 46 percent of Americans in the category of having high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is always measured when the person is at rest and over several days. Its measurements are also called blood pressure readings.
High blood pressure
Gender and age may increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure or hypertensionis when a person has abnormally high pressure against the walls of their blood vessels. This condition develops gradually over many years and may go unnoticed for a long time, as there are often no symptoms.
The following risk factors increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure:
- Age. Blood pressure is usually higher with age.
- Gender. Men are more likelyto have high blood pressure before the age of 55, but women are more likely than men to have the condition after the age of 55.
- Race. High blood pressure is more common in African Americans than Caucasian or Hispanic Americans.
- Family history. Having a family member with high blood pressure increases the risk of a person developing high blood pressure in the future.
- Obesity. A person who is overweight or obese is more likely to develop high blood pressure. This is because a higher volume of blood circulates through blood vessels to supply the cells with oxygen and nutrients. Because there is more blood circulating, there is a higher pressure on the vessel walls.
- Lifestyle habits. A lack of physical activity, smoking tobacco (including second-hand smoking), drinking too much alcohol, consuming too much salt (sodium) or too little potassium, and stressmay increase the risk.
- Certain chronic conditions. Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure.
- Pregnancy. In some cases, pregnancy can cause high blood pressure.
When left untreated, high blood pressure can cause complications and, eventually, serious health problems, such as:
- Heart attack. A block in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the heart, preventing that portion of the heart from getting oxygen.
- Stroke. A strokehappens when there is a block in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, preventing that portion of the brain from getting oxygen.
- Heart failure. Failure of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands, caused by the increased pressure on the vessels.
- Peripheral artery disease. This is the narrowing of blood vessels other than those that supply the heart or the brain, most commonly of the legs. Blood flow to that part of the body is affected.
- Aneurysm. An aneurysmis the development of an abnormal bulge in a blood vessel wall, which may press on other organs, block blood flow, or eventually burst.
- Chronic kidney disease. Kidney disease can be caused by narrowing of blood vessels in the kidneys, which prevents them from working properly.
Low blood pressure
Low blood pressure or hypotension occurs when a person has abnormally low blood pressure against the walls of their blood vessels.
Risk factors that increase a person’s chance of developing the condition include:
- Age. People older than 65are more likely to experience a drop in blood pressure while standing up, or after eating. Children and young people are more likely to experience a rapid drop in blood pressure accompanied by dizziness, blurred vision, and fainting, which is known as neurally mediated hypotension.
- Certain medications. High blood pressure medicines, including diuretics, can cause hypotension.
- Certain diseases. Conditions such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, and some heart conditions increase the risk of low blood pressure.
- Other factors. Pregnancy, standing in the heat, or standing still for long periods of time can also cause low blood pressure.
A person with mild low blood pressure may experience fatigue, fainting, or dizziness.
More severe forms of low blood pressure can compromise oxygen-rich blood flow to the body’s major organs, including the brain. If this happens, a person may feel sleepy, confused, or light-headed. In serious cases, this can evolve to heart or brain damage.