I have been called upon to treat a few respiratory allergies recently and they all seem to be related to hay.
There are many organisms which can cause respiratory allergies, not just from hay, and trying to find the culprit is like finding a needle in a haystack!
Herbally I approach this problem by dampening down the allergic response or intolerance (there is a difference) and treating the symptoms, while at the same time trying to find the offending cause and remove it from the horse.
I have a good first port of call mix for respiratory allergies on my shop – Alchemy Horseradish & Thyme Formula. It also contains Nettles, Chamomile and Liquorice – made from organic fresh plant tinctures grown in Tasmania. All these herbs have specific actions to assist in reducing coughing, and improving airflow to the upper airways.
It is possible for any being to be intolerant or allergic to almost anything. Horses are no exception. However it is important to understand that 90% of reactions are not true allergies.
The immune system is extremely complex but in a true allergic response, the body becomes hypersensitive to particular antigens, called allergens, which provoke characteristic symptoms whenever they are subsequently encountered. Different allergies afflict different tissues and may have either local or general effects, varying from breathing difficulties, inflammatory skin reactions to gut disturbances or severe shock (anaphylaxis). The latter is life threatening.
Antibodies circulate throughout the body in the gamma globulin portion of the plasma proteins in the blood. In allergic reactions portions of the antibodies attach to mast cells which release histamine when the matching antigen is encountered. True allergy lasts forever because antibody levels never completely disappear, and it does not matter whether months or years go by between exposures.
Intolerances may provoke symptoms which are virtually indistinguishable from real allergy. These intolerances are a matter of individual susceptibility.
There are many symptoms of intolerances, ranging from coughing, itchiness, swellings and lumps on the skin, to hyperactive behaviour, irritability, and breathing difficulties.
In some cases skin reactions can be treated quickly and easily by administering Chamomile Tea with Rescue Remedy added and cold hosing the horse before applying a wash of Chamomile Tea. One client told me she had just prepared the bucket of Chamomile Tea to use as a soothing wash, and when she turned around the horse had drunk the bucket of Chamomile Tea! They really do know what is good for them.
So it is a good idea to have some dried Chamomile on hand for this purpose and also the Alchemy Horseradish & Thyme Formula.
If the horse is having difficulty breathing, administer the Chamomile Tea with Rescue Remedy orally, or the formula, and call the vet, this is one time when the quick action of a single cortisone shot is a life saver.
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