Allergy Attack!

Homeopathy achieves long-term relief for chronic allergy patient

A quarter of the UK’s population will develop an allergy at some time in their lives; and the problem is getting worse with the number of sufferers increasing by 5% every year. For most sufferers their allergy is more of an unpleasant inconvenience than a debilitating condition.

Jenny’s case history, however, highlights how allergies can sometimes cause such a severe physical reaction, the patient’s health and their quality of life is seriously affected. We also see how the limited treatment that conventional medicine offers only produces shot-term relief, and how NHS funded homeopathic intervention brought about a remarkable transformation in Jenny’s condition.

Jenny’ story
I was brought up surrounded by a loving family and the beautiful Perthshire countryside. My childhood should have been idyllic but sadly this was not to be the case. From infancy I suffered with asthma, but it was at around the age of eight that I started to experience allergic reactions that at first caused sneezing, itchy and watering eyes, and a running nose. However, more distressing symptoms were to follow. These included a swollen face that often caused my eyes to close to narrow slits, and my face and arms becoming discoloured by a deep red, almost purple rash that would feel hot and sore. Then the skin on the affected areas would eventually become flaky and peel. But worse was to come! During particularly bad attacks the membranes inside my nose would become so swollen I would have difficulty breathing: a frightening experience for me and my parents.

On visiting our family doctor I underwent an allergy test and was found to have acute allergic sensitivity to a wide range of allergens including: the house dust mite; bed mite; hay, tree and grass pollen; horse and cat dander; and oil seed rape pollen. So indoors and out I was subjected to a wide range of airborne particles that would trigger such violent reactions I would, at times, be left feeling extremely ill.  Although I had to suffer these attacks throughout the year – having a severe reaction about every two months – because my family lived in a rural area, it was during the spring and summer months that I was most vulnerable.

Over the years I’ve inevitably become something of an expert on allergies and their cause. Allergies are caused when a normally harmless substance (the allergen) triggers a heightened or altered reactivity of the body’s immune system. When someone suffers an allergic reaction their immune system believes the allergens to be threatening and so it produces IgE antibodies to attack the invading material. This is called the immune response. More antibodies are produced every time the person comes in to contact with the allergen, causing the release of chemicals such as histamine in the body which result in an allergic reaction.

Due to the severity of the allergic reactions I was suffering, the family doctor referred me to the allergy clinic at the Ninewells Hospital in Dundee where I saw the first of what was to become over the years a very long list of allergy specialists and dermatologists. The treatment prescribed was antihistamine tablets to alleviate the cold-like symptoms, along with a topical hydrocortisone cream to reduce the inflammation on my face and arms.  Although these treatments did offer some relief, I was still prone to attacks when I unwittingly came into contact with someone who had in turn been in contact with one of the sources of the allergens that I was so sensitive to.

The best hope the specialist could offer was that as I grew older I might outgrow the worst of the symptoms. A hope that ultimately proved baseless. My asthma did clear up when I was 18, but the acute allergic reactions continued throughout my childhood – forcing me to miss school when stricken with particularly bad attacks – and into adulthood.

Worrying side-effects
Over time my body started to develop immunity to various antihistamine drugs, so regular appointments with my GP were necessary for the treatment to be reviewed and the prescription changed. I also had to contend with the drowsiness that is a common side-effect of taking antihistamine medication.  There were also countless visits to the Ninewells Hospital where I saw numerous specialists, but whomever I saw they always prescribed the same treatment and delivered the same vague prognosis. On one occasion, I can clearly remember asking the specialist if there was any alternative to the treatment I was receiving and was told, somewhat insensitively, I could try wearing an upturned gold fish bowl over my head.

As the years passed, I also became increasingly concerned about the side-effects associated with long-term use of topical steroid creams such as hydrocortisone. A thinning of the skin is the most common problem; but the skin can also develop permanent striae similar to “stretch” marks and bruising, discolouration, or thin spidery blood vessels have been linked to prolonged use of this type of treatment too. Nevertheless, I followed the doctors’ advice and continued with the prescribed medication as I believed there was no alternative.

By now I’d become used to having these allergic reactions and had learned to live them. But what concerned me more was how others would respond to the often dramatic change in my appearance when stricken with an attack.  To offset any over-sympathetic reactions from friends and colleagues, I would sometimes wear a pair of joke spectacles with false bulbous eyes fixed to the end of springs that were attached to the frames. Donning the glasses, the eyes would bounce around uncontrollably on the end of their springs causing laughter among all those present. Knowing those round me felt better and less concerned about my health and appearance, made me feel better.

Then in 2002, I went to my GPs’ surgery for a routine check-up and saw, purely by chance, a recently qualified GP who had just joined the practice. During the consultation the doctor asked whether I’d ever thought about trying homeopathy. Although open-minded on the subject of complementary and alternative medicine I had never seriously considered it as a way of treating my allergy problems. Thinking I had nothing to lose but, to be honest, without any great expectations either, I agreed to a consultation with a homeopath: a decision that was to have a dramatic effect on the medical condition that had plagued me for almost my entire life.

Homeopathic consultation and treatment
An appointment was made for me to see Dr Sue McCallion at the Roxburghe House Clinic which is located in the grounds of the NHS Royal Victoria Hospital in Dundee.

The consultation was very different to anything I had had before. Dr McCallion asked me many questions, most of which seemed unrelated to my allergic reactions. She inquired about my lifestyle, diet, the work I did, family and personal relationships.

At the end of the consultation Dr McCallion prescribed the homeopathic medicine Pulsatilla for the skin eruptions on my face and for my very itchy, puffy eyes: one 30C tablet to be taken three times on just one day a month.  Five separate medications derived from the material that caused the acutest allergic reactions were also prescribed. These were cat fur, horse hair, grass pollen, tree pollen and oil seed rape pollen, with each having to be taken three times a day for three months. The allergy medications came in pill form and had to be placed under the tongue to dissolve at least an hour before eating. Dr McCallion also advised me to limit the amount of tea and coffee I drank or, if possible, stop drinking caffeine altogether. Another appointment was arranged to review the treatment in three months.

Six to eight weeks into the treatment I became aware that I was no longer suffering the violent allergic reactions that had been such a distressing part of my life.  I was still experiencing very mild symptoms but these were easy to live with compared to what I’d endured in the past.  After three months even the mild symptoms began to clear up.

It was incredible – just like a miracle!

At the follow-up appointment I could hardly contain myself and was effusive in my praise of the treatment I’d received and the results it had produced. But I must confess, I was somewhat taken aback for Dr McCallion appeared unmoved by the dramatic improvement in my condition.

It was as if Dr McCallion failed to see how this improvement in my health would bring about huge benefits to my everyday life. But she later explained that she has, over the years, seen these results so many times with other patients, she’s no longer surprised at the success of the treatment.

Lasting relief
The doctor then asked about my emotional state. Although until then I’d not registered any increase in emotional sensitivity, I suddenly realised that I’d been quite tearful at times since beginning the homeopathic medication. Dr McCallion suggested I stop taking the Pulsatilla and only use the allergy medicine as and when I needed it.  This I did, only taking the homeopathic medicine when I felt the allergy symptoms returning. Gradually I noticed that I needed to do this less and less often. I no longer suffer any severe allergic reactions and it’s now been two years since I last needed to take the homeopathic medicine.

Further evidence of the dramatic improvement in my condition came when the field directly behind my house was planted with a crop of oil seed rape.  Even when the oil seed rape is in full flower I suffer not even the slightest reaction, while some of my family and friends are sneezing their heads off! It’s amazing!

I’m now 31 and still living in East Perthshire in the village of Blairgowrie with my husband and two young children, Emily and Fraser.  So impressed have I been with homeopathy I have integrated it into the healthcare of my family. My only regret is that I didn’t seek help from a homeopath sooner, as I’m convinced it would have saved me from years of discomfort and illness.