Anti-histamines, the Anti-Hero
The most potent protection against the Allergy Death Star is to start antihistamine medication several days before the allergy season starts. To understand why, we need to understand what actually causes allergy symptoms.
Pollen, the villain, invades the body via the nasal passages and binds to mast cells, which are white cells with special protective powers. Binding to the cell’s outer surface breaks open the mast cell, which releases chemical substances such as histamine causing a cascade of effects.
Histamine works as a protective mechanism to rid the invading pollen from the body. Mucus membranes swollen and watery to wash the pollen away from the nose. Histamine also causes the eyes to become itchy and watery trying to flush the pollen in the air from the surface of the eyes. The post nasal drip from nasal congestion causes coughing, and when pollen is inhaled into the lungs, histamine released there leads to wheezing.
The body sees pollen as a foreign invader and has evolved the release of histamine from the mast cell as a way to fight the pollen and get rid of it through increased secretions. In trying to remove the pollen, the body creates the uncomfortable symptoms of what we know as allergies or allergic rhinitis: runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing and wheezing.
If pollen is the invader and histamine is the protector, the antihistamine is somewhat like the anti-hero, trying to do the right thing in relieving the body’s symptoms but in doing so works against the body’s protection. Anti-histamines block where the histamine needs to bind in the tissues. If you take the antihistamine before pollen exposure, when the histamine is released, it can’t bind to its usual sites. The histamine is blocked so there are no swollen mucous membranes or increased secretions, no sneezing, no post nasal drip or coughing, and no wheezing.
So, as the Histamine Force works to protect the body against Darth Vader’s Pollen Death Star, remember it is the anti-hero Anti-Histamine that ultimately comes to save the day. Only, remember that he has to be at the showdown several days before anyone else arrives!