Allergic Cascade

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Allergy Relief

Got a stuffy nose from allergies or a cold? Nasal irrigation may help. Here's how it works. You pour a saline solution into one nostril. As it flows through your nasal cavity into the other nostril, it washes out mucus and allergens. Use this step-by-step guide to see how to do it.

Step 1: Decide What You'll Need
For nasal irrigation, you'll need a container and saline solution. You can buy prefilled containers, or use a bulb syringe or neti pot. All are available at drugstores.

Step 2: Mix the Saline Solution
If you choose a prefilled bottle, skip this step. Otherwise, you can buy a saline solution powder and follow the directions on the label or make your own. Start with one to two cups of warm water. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of non-iodized salt and a pinch of baking soda to soften the effect of the salt. Use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled and cooled water to make the solution to help prevent infection.

Quick GuideAllergy Pictures Slideshow: 10 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies

Allergy Pictures Slideshow: 10 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies

The allergic cascade facts

  • The allergic response is usually very selective for specific allergens.
  • T- and B-lymphocytes play important roles in the allergic reaction.
  • Mast cells and basophils release a variety of chemical mediators and cytokines that cause allergic inflammation.
  • The immediate or "early" phase allergic reaction is subsequently followed by a more prolonged "late" phase reaction.
  • Histamine is an important chemical mediator that causes many of the common allergic symptoms.
  • Knowledge of the allergic cascade has resulted in effective treatments for allergy. Future research is aimed at finding new agents that intervene at specific levels of the allergic reaction.

The immune system is very specific and goal oriented. Although you may be allergic to a number of substances, allergic reactions are directed at specific allergens. For example, you may be allergic to Bermuda grass, but not oysters. At times, however, two or more foreign substances might appear similar in nature to the immune system, which may mistake one for the other and react to both. For example, if you are allergic to birch trees, your immune system may also react to apples or other fruits, which it mistakes for birch pollen. These cross-reactions occur because of similar allergens that are produced by a variety of plants. The allergic response, however, is by no means vague or ill-defined. It is a definite, vigorous attack aimed, unfortunately, at harmless agents. The end result is well-defined symptoms and disorders.

The deeper our understanding of the intricate nature of the allergic reaction, the more likely we are to find more effective treatments. We need to look more closely at the chain of events from the initial response to allergens to the many symptoms that may result. Although misguided, it is an efficient, well-orchestrated, and potentially explosive sequence of cellular and chemical interactions. This is the so-called "allergic cascade."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/29/2015

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