Allergic Rhinitis – Here Is What You Need to Know

A multi-centre study conducted by the Asthma Epidemiology Study Group of the Indian Council of Medical Research found that allergic rhinitis is prevalent among 3.5% of the population in India. In another study, 21.27% of school girls between the ages of 4-17 years were seen to be suffering from allergic rhinitis. So what exactly is allergic rhinitis? Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system of the human body. In layman’s terms, it is caused due to how your body responds to specific allergens. An allergen is a normally harmless substance that tends to cause an allergic reaction in your body. The most common allergen is pollen.

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include sneezing, coughing, frequent headaches, excessive fatigue, itchy and watery eyes, a runny, stuffy and itchy nose, dark circles under the eyes and extremely dry, itchy skin that often causes blisters. You may see one or more of these symptoms after your body comes into contact with an allergen. Severe headaches and fatigue are extreme symptoms which may occur only if your body is exposed to allergens for a long time.

Causes of Allergic Rhinitis

Many times, it may not be easy to decipher the cause of your allergic rhinitis. Essentially, it is caused due to the release of histamine in your body, which occurs when your body comes in contact with an allergen. Histamine is a natural chemical which defends your body from the allergen. Along with pollen, few other things that can cause allergic rhinitis are grass, dust, pet hair, animal dander, dust mites, and cat saliva. Perfumes, smoke from cigarettes and diesel exhaust can also tend to trigger hay fever in the human body. Although tobacco is not directly related to allergic rhinitis, a study on MedIND showed that 55% of people suffering from allergic rhinitis were tobacco users. In some cases, allergic rhinitis occurs due to a family history of allergies. Cold temperatures, humidity, the wind, air pollution, hairspray, and fumes may also trigger or worsen the situation of allergic rhinitis.

Types of Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis can be categorized into two different types – seasonal and perennial. Pollen-based allergies are usually seasonal and occur around the summer season. This kind of allergic sensitivity may even be caused by allergens from grass, trees, and weeds. Perennial allergic rhinitis, on the other hand, shows symptoms all your year round. It is caused due to substances you may come in contact with on a daily basis such as dust mites, pet hair, or cockroaches. At times, hidden food allergies may also result in perennial nasal symptoms.

Diagnosis of Allergic Rhinitis

If you experience any of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, you can visit your doctor for further diagnosis. The doctor can check the inside of your nose to spot nasal polyps. These are fleshy swellings that grow from the lining of the sinuses, the small cavities inside your nose. Another common method of diagnosis is the skin prick test in which the doctor places the allergen on your arm and pricks the surface of your skin to let it enter it into your immune system. This is done to check how your body reacts to it. If you are allergic to it, a small itchy spot will appear. Another way to go about the diagnosis is through a blood test. This helps in checking the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody in your blood. This antibody is produced in your immune system in your response to a suspected allergen.

Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis

Mild allergic rhinitis can be treated by the intake of antihistamines. Regularly cleaning your nasal passages with a salt water solution, also called as nasal douching or irrigation, can also help. You can consider using eye drops or nasal sprays as they help in relieving the itchiness and other symptoms for a short time.

For severe allergies, a lot of doctors recommend immunotherapy or allergy shots. This begins with taking the shot one to three times per week for three to six months. This is called the build up phase. This is followed by the maintenance phase where you visit your doctor once in a month for a course of three to five years. Once your body starts getting used to shots, the allergy symptoms will start fading slowly and eventually disappear altogether. Another popular method of treatment is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). This involves placing a tablet on your tongue, which contains a mixture of several allergens. This method may have some side effects such as itching in the mouth or irritation in the throat.

The best way to keep your allergies under control is to keep yourself and your environment as clean as possible. Identify the things or situations which cause you allergies and try to stay away from those. Don’t let the symptoms hamper the quality of your life – Remember, prevention is always better than cure.

14 Tips to Stay Fit and Healthy This Monsoon Season

We are always happy to welcome the monsoons! The first showers that bring in the smell of fresh rain, soaking up dry mud are a welcome break from the scorching heat we have to face for the months before that. While the rainy season comes in with a lot of positivity, the one thing we need to pay attention to in this season is our health. Cold, cough, running nose, or viral fever become a common phenomenon during this season. Water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, dengue, malaria, cholera and typhoid are also seen to spread among the masses easily. All this and our eating habits adversely affect our workout routines as well, leading to an overall disruption in our health routine. So how do we ensure that we do not become victims of the diseases floating in the air this season? How do we know that we are making healthy choices? Here’s a quick guide to some of the things we must and must not do to stay healthy and fit this season:

1) Eat only when you feel hungry. This is a universal mantra for food all year round but holds a lot of relevance during the rainy season. Overeating causes ingestion problems and other illnesses.

2) Make fruits an important part of your daily diet. Fruits such as apples, mangoes, pomegranates, and pears are great. You can avoid summer fruits such as watermelon and muskmelon.

3) Foods such as brown rice, oats, and barley are the best foods you can have during this monsoon.

4) Try to have as less salt as possible by using it in average amounts in your food. Salt causes high blood pressure and water retention.

5) Opt for dry foods such as corn, gram flour, chickpea and stay away from watery foods like lassi and or heavy food items like rice.

6) Hot foods like soups, stir fries, and curries will be a treat to your throat as well as your body in this season. Add a dash of garlic to these – it will help in increasing immunity.

7) Avoid too much milk in your diet and try inculcating yogurt, curd, and almonds instead. Consume a lot of water each day to keep your body hydrated and try to stick to boiled or purified water to keep yourself away from the harmful germs and bacteria.

8) Your body is very prone to infections of different kinds in this season. Eating bitter vegetables such as bitter gourd and bitter herbs such as neem, turmeric powder, and methi seeds will make your body stronger and help in preventing infections.

9) Stay away from sesame oil, peanut oil, and mustard oil as they can invite infections. Instead, choose drying oils such as corn oil or light oil.

10)If you have sensitive skin or skin that is prone to rashes and other such problems, the monsoons can have adverse effects on your skin. To avoid skin allergies, skin irritation, boils,

change in skin colour dullness, rashes and pyoderma, refrain from eating spicy foods. Take care of your skin by using a good moisturiser and a good sunscreen lotion.

11)Don’t include large quantities of sour foods such as tamarind, tomatoes and lime in your diet since these can also be the cause of water retention in the body.

12)Ginger tea with hot pakodas this season feels great! You can also try having herbal teas, which have anti-bacterial properties. Try different variations such as ginger, pepper, honey, mint and basil.

13)While the rains and gloomy weather may make you lazy to hit the gym, a great alternative to losing calories would be to indulge in household chores. Sweeping and swabbing the floor proves to be the best exercise. You can try different yoga techniques at home too.

14)Another great alternative for workouts is using the stairs. Choose them over the lift every time you step outside the house. An average of ten rounds up and down the stairs will make you feel pumped up and re-energized.

Follow these simple guidelines, carry an umbrella to avoid getting wet in the rains every time you step out, and get ready to enjoy a healthy monsoon this season!

Who Says Vegetarians Can’t Get Enough Proteins?

Since the historic time of Home Sapiens, the human species is used to getting their dose of nutrients and proteins by feeding on other animals and creatures. But over the years, things changed. We, humans, became more aware of our health and the food we intake to keep our bodies fit. Due to our concern for the environment and other species, and our love for animals, vegetarianism and veganism are becoming increasingly popular among the masses. However, a lot of critics claim that a purely meatless diet is not as nutritious, one of the major reasons being the lack of proteins in it.

Protein as a nutrient is essential for the human body. Having healthy hair, skin and muscles all depends majorly on the amount of protein your body receives. A deficiency of protein in the body can lead to various problems such as fatigue, muscle weakness, hair loss, etc. So how can we stick to our personal food preferences and yet ensure that we achieve optimal health for our body? Worry not, because this is definitely possible even without including meat in your diet! As opposed to the popular myth that vegetarians will always face a lack of nutrients for their body, choosing the right kind of food can keep you healthy. Here are some of the food items that are purely vegetarian and still contain high amounts of proteins and vitamins:

Nuts

The easiest answer for proteins for vegetarians is nuts. Right from almonds and cashews to peanuts and hazelnuts, all kinds of nuts can be consumed at any time of the day and are rich in nutrients. Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein with 4 gm per tablespoon. All you need to do is watch the salt if you consume these on a regular basis. Choose regular instead of salted to keep the sodium intake low.

Lotus Seeds or Makhana

A food item which is catching up on the popularity meter is Makhana. With tasty versions of it being introduced in the market, Lotus seeds are a great source of nutrients for the body. Along with being rich in protein they are anti-inflammatory and act as a great antioxidant. You can eat them raw, roasted, ground or boiled and can also add them to soups, salads, and also desserts.

Dairy

If you are a vegan, this section will not be applicable to you but if you are not, CHEESE is the answer to everything! Cottage cheese, cheddar, parmesan, they all are high in protein and can be eaten in all forms. Low sodium parmesan makes it to the protein heavyweight category with 42 gm in a 100 gm serving. Other products falling in the dairy category such as milk and ice cream also provide the body with a lot of protein, along with calcium.

Beans

Rajma chawal or beans on a pile of cheese nachos, whatever be the form, as long as you’re having beans, you know that your body is receiving a wealth of proteins. Black beans have the most proteins so try to include them in your diet as often as possible. Low in cholesterol and high in magnesium, half a cup of beans yields up to 7.5 gm of protein.

Soy

Soy is another food item packed with protein and is considered as a great alternative for meat by a lot of chefs. Tofu, tempeh, natto or soy milk, whichever form of soy suits your pallet, you know that it is going to be healthy. Tofu contains an impressive 20 gm of protein in every half cup, whereas soy beans have 14 gm per half cup.

Quinoa

Catching up soon into the world of good food, quinoa is another food item which chefs are eyeing and incorporating in new recipes. This tiny little seed is the only seed that provides all the nine essential amino acids which the body needs. It is rich in magnesium, iron and fibre and is a great resort for those suffering from diabetes. It can easily be chosen as a healthy substitute for pasta or rice.

So the next time someone gets to your head about the lack of protein your diet, you do not have to worry about it. With appropriate ingredients in the good proportions in your diet, you know that you are doing it right!

Health Track – Six Health Parameters Should You Care About Everyday

How do you manage your health? Ask anyone this question and they will rattle off a list of health and fitness apps they use. From tracking the number of steps you take each day, to monitoring your heart rate every hour…there is an app for almost everything related to your health. While most of us cram our smartphone with the latest ‘fad’ app, few of us know what really we should be monitoring every day when it comes to managing our health better. So, in the spirit of making the smartphone a useful health accessory, here’s a look at some of the key health parameters you should care about every day.

Step Tracking

Yes, step tracking has assumed a sort of cult status at the moment. Since we have suddenly woken up to the fact that ‘sitting is now the new smoking’, everyone is jumping on the 10,000 steps bandwagon for its obvious health benefits. Whether it is 10,000 steps, or more, or less, getting a means (app or wearable) to track your basic activity level helps in managing your sedentary life better. Exercise tracking apps make sure you stay put on the health track by helping you set and achieve your goals, give you work out ideas, quantify the calories burnt v/s calories ingested and track your progress. Time to roll off the couch and be active!

Diet Tracking

We are what we eat…but do we watch what we eat? A cookie here, a sip of soda there, a so-called light workday lunch at your favourite salad bar could be potentially derailing your weight loss initiatives and keeping you from being your fittest best. Health apps can help you scan, save, track and calculate the calories that you consume and also provide information on the nutritional content of the food that you have eaten. You can also use these apps to track your daily calories, fat, carbohydrate and protein intake to make sure that you have the scales tipping in your favour.

Caffeine Tab

Can’t sleep too well? What’s your caffeine intake on a daily basis? Most people think that caffeine in their system comes only from the cup of coffee that they drink. However, apart from the cups of coffee that you drink regularly, caffeine is a very common ingredient found in soft drinks, energy drinks, and other beverages. Coffee tracking apps make it easier to see how much caffeine you already have in your system and will intimate you when you need to take that ‘coffee –break’…literally.

Sleep Tracking

Want great health? Sleep well. Sleep tracking applications come in handy when you want to monitor and analyze your sleep cycles and review your sleep and wake patterns. Analysing these patterns help you figure out what’s tampering with your sleep and make the necessary adjustments to help you sleep easy.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Are you sure you are working out at the right intensity? Heart rate monitoring apps check your real-time heart rate and help your heart rate become your personal coach. These apps give a clear evaluation of the condition of your cardiovascular system during physical activity and can keep you informed is you need to increase or pull back your workout intensity or if you have found your perfect workout groove.

Water Tracker

Most of us don’t drink enough water and can benefit from a time to time aqua alert to make sure we stay healthy. Using a water drink tracker application not only gives you timely reminders on when you should drink water but also tracks how much water you should actually drink keeping your height, weight and activity levels in mind.

To manage your health better you need to monitor it well. So go ahead, take control of your health in your own hands (literally!) and enjoy a fit and healthy mind and body.

Have you Got Your Annual Check-up Done Yet?

Generally, we visit the doctor only when there is something wrong. Sure, you feel fit and healthy and have not called in sick even once in the past year. But given that we lead very sedentary lives that are high on stress and low on activity, getting that annual health check-up is the only guarantee that your health is at its 100%.

With lifestyle related diseases rampant today, getting regular health check-ups is one way to ensure that you can take a preventive approach to disease management. Some of the factors to take into consideration are your age, family history, and lifestyle choices. Family history, in a number of cases, influences the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer as well. With the help of regular health check-ups, problems can be identified earlier and treated on time. So how should you prepare for a health check-up?

The first step that you should take when preparing to take an annual health exam is by identifying a good physician. Once that has been done prepare a checklist which details:

• Your family medical history

• Types and number of surgeries

• Smoking history

• Medication and immunization list

• Allergies list

• Life changes that impact overall health

• Weight gain

You should also know that there are three kinds of health check-ups; routine physical examination, preventive health check and master health check-up. Preventive health check-ups are especially important for people with risk factors owing to family history or lifestyle choices such as smoking. A routine health exam assesses the condition of an individual’s general health while a master health check-up is more detailed and aids early detection of health problems. According to a number of studies, getting a whole battery of tests annually is not required since some of the invasive ones can actually have a negative health impact in the long term. If you are of relatively good health, have made the right lifestyle choices, and have no family history of heart-related diseases, diabetes, cancer or strokes here are a few things that you should ideally get assessed annually.

Haemogram:

A haemogram is a broad screening blood test to check for anomalies such as anaemia, infection, and other diseases. A haemogram check:

• Haemoglobin

• Packed cell volume

• R.B.C. count

• MCHC/MCV/MCH

• E.S.R.

• Peripheral Smear

• Platelet Count

• Total W.B.C./Differential Count

Biochemical Parameters:

The biochemical profile forms the database for most diagnostic investigations of internal diseases and includes:

• Fasting Sugar

• HbA1C

• Urea /Creatinine

• Uric Acid

• PP Blood Sugar (only for diabetic patients)

Lipid Profile:

Lipid Profile tests help identify an individual’s risk to heart disease and depending on the results, along with other associated factors, are taken into consideration to develop a treatment plan.

• Total Cholesterol

• HDL Cholesterol

• LDL Cholesterol

• Triglycerides

• Total Cholesterol /HDL Ratio

Liver Function Tests:

Liver Function Tests, also known as Liver Enzyme Tests are done to detect if the liver is functioning properly. These tests detect inflammation and damage to the liver and check the level of the certain liver enzymes. A typical Liver Function test will include:

• Total Protein/Albumin/Globulin

• SGPT/SGOT

• Alkaline Phosphatase

• GGTP

• S. Bilirubin

General Tests:

Apart from the above tests, there are a couple of preventive tests that fall under the category of general tests to check the overall health of an individual and identify if he/she is at risk for deadly diseases like cancer. These tests include:

• Complete Urine Analysis

• Stool Test(optional)

• ECG (Resting)

• X-Ray Chest

• Ultrasonogram of the abdomen

• Pap Smear (for women)

• Clinical examination

Along with getting all these tests done make sure that you keep a record of them as well. Instead of keeping mounds of physical records that can be easily displaced, look at digitizing them and store them on a secure healthcare platform that you can easily access from your smartphone. That way you are in control of your medical history and can pull it out whenever you need – anytime, anywhere.