CAUSES OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS: MYTHS ABOUT ALLERGY TO CATS AND DOGSThe First Myth: “I’m Not Allergic to My Dog, But I Can’t Get Near My Neighbor’s Dog.” This is a comment usually made by people whose dog lives inside, and in close relationship with them. The observation is partially true: such a person may not notice that her symptoms are triggered by her dog. However, the fact that she does not notice them doesn’t mean that she isn’t allergic to her dog.Dog-allergic people whose pets live indoors frequently have daily symptoms that wax and wane in severity. Such people either cannot identify anything specific that triggers symptoms, or they tend to perceive that “everything” causes symptoms. The truth is their symptoms have become a daily affair: They are exposed to dog allergen many hours out of each day because their dog lives indoors.When this dog owner goes to her neighbor’s home, she becomes exposed to a different amount of dog allergen. If this exposure is more intense than what she gets from her own dog, she will experience a flare-up of symptoms. To her, it seems as if she is allergic to the neighbor’s dog and not her own, when, in truth, she is actually allergic to both her pet and her neighbor’s. The increased degree of exposure to dog allergen at her neighbor’s accounts for her increased symptoms while there.
The Second Myth: Short-Hair Dogs or Cats Cause Fewer Allergy Problems Than Their Long-Haired Counterparts. Remember this: Dogs is Dogs! Cats is Cats!Also, in contrast to popular belief, dog and cat hair are far less important as causes of allergic symptoms than are shed skin cells and saliva. Therefore, don’t judge the allergy-causing ability of a dog or cat by the length of its hair.
The Final Myth: “I’m Allergic to Cocker Spaniels But Not to Labradors.” This statement implies that you can be allergic to one breed of dog, but not to another. This isn’t true, although it may seem to be. Be aware that some breeds of dog either shed more “doggy” allergen in their skin and saliva than do other breeds, or they simply shed a greater volume of skin cells and saliva. Either results in a greater exposure to allergen from one breed than another, and therefore, in more allergic symptoms. But doggy allergen is doggy allergen; it is not unique to any breed. If you hang around the breed you think you are not allergic to long enough, you will eventually expose yourself sufficiently to develop symptoms.*20/322/5*
Skin testing is a very reliable method of determining the kind, as well as the degree, of sensitivity to an inhaled allergen. Intradermal or scratch tests should be performed in three sessions, one session each week, as it is not advisable to perform more than ten of them each time. A possible schedule of testing might look like the one indicated here.
First session Second session Third session
Trees Silk Alternaria
Grasses Feathers Aspergillus
Plantain Dog Hair Penicillium
Ragweed Goat Hair Hormodendron
Tobacco Horse Serum Cottonseed
Pyrethrum Cat Hair Flaxseed
Orris Root Rabbit Hair
The above tests are to be repeated in different dilutions because the intensity of the reaction to each dilution determines the treatment. A very sensitive child classified as AA can tolerate a much smaller quantity of desensitizing material than someone who has been classified as À, Â, Ñ, or D. However, even though testing in different dilutions is a good guide to the strength of the solution to be used in desensitization, it does not indicate the actual amount of discomfort that the allergic child may be suffering.
During skin testing, some highly sensitive children may get hives or shock. If this happens, the doctor should place a tourniquet on the arm above the site of the test (in order to delay the absorption of the testing material) and inject adrenalin in the testing area. This injection may have to be repeated in half an hour.
Skin testing for foods has limited value in the diagnosis of a food allergy. Consequently, many allergists skip these tests altogether. They rely instead on an accurate history and elimination diets. Those who do tests for foods find that intradermal tests are more accurate than scratch tests, but the possibility of severe anaphylactic reactions while testing for shellfish, nuts, and strawberries are possible.
Dr Pearson and Dr Rix point out that the level of psychiatric disorder in patients with a variety of other bowel complaints is much lower – only 34 per cent compared to 86 per cent. One factor in this difference is probably the attitude of the medical profession, since the other bowel complaints studied were all recognized conditions which are not dismissed as psychosomatic. Unpleasant symptoms are a lot easier to cope with if you know you have What-sisname’s Syndrome than if you’ve been told that it’s ‘all in your mind’.
The idea that the psychological symptoms could be largely a result of the physical symptoms, rather than the cause of them, is substantiated by one of the patients that Dr Pearson and Dr Rix studied. This patient was sensitive to yeast and reacted to it in very small amounts, so that she produced a positive reaction even with the minute quantities that they used for testing. This patient was put on a yeast-free diet, and given a second psychiatric assessment when her bowel symptoms had resolved. Before the diet her score on the psychiatric assessment was 20 – well over the critical score of 12 that indicates significant psychiatric disturbance. With IBS a thing of the past, her score was one – a marked improvement.
The usefulness of treatments such as psychotherapy and hypnotherapy in treating IBS is entirely compatible with this view. If such treatments could eradicate the symptoms in a large proportion of patients it would be a different matter, but they do not: in most patients, they simply reduce the symptoms to a more manageable level. For the patients who respond to such treatment, there is probably a subtle interplay of mental and physical factors – the distressing symptoms lead to anxiety or depression, and the disturbed state of mind makes the symptoms worse. In some patients, psychological disorders may be even more important.
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