ODE TO A MAST CELL
Cytokine storm rages, histamine release
Multi biological reactions that never cease
Swelling, blisters, itching, redness and pain
Genetically based, the cycle erupts again
Nowhere to go, nothing helps, sleep deprived due to painful welts
A hidden agenda from cells deep within,
For the hypermobile community another battle to have to win
At this time of year, the blossom on the trees and later grass pollen and grain in fields start to ripen in the northern hemisphere particularly in the UK. This is a welcome vision to our eyes after long interminable winter of gloom and cold. However, this can bring untold misery to some of us and increasingly, if not understood, this starts a new cycle of serious allergies.
The seasons’ affect people with symptomatic hypermobility (Ehlers-Danlos syndromes, Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders), and/or neurodivergent people keenly, as pollen from trees, grass or crops can cause an overreaction of the defence systems in the body. When the pollen in inhaled, some people face heightened sensitivity to the invaders. The pollen is seen as an enemy of the body. We believe this might be due to MAST cells.
What is a mast cell?
Simply put, mast cells are found in our bodies, and in the connective tissues in our skin and mucous areas. These are our ‘allergy’ cells, and the first responders to perceived and real attacks on the body. They are a very important part of our immune system for dangerous diseases, injuries, or infections. For some of us, mast cells lead to over-sensitivity and over- reaction , thus releasing too much histamine alongside other chemicals. This is called de-granulation. Histamine combined with other chemicals allow the blood flow to increase to the area of infection or injury thereby swarming to counteract the danger to the rest of the body which can build up to a storm, termed a cytokine storm. This, unfortunately, leads to less blood flow for good functioning of local organs.
How mast cells affect you
If you are sensitive to pollen, you may suffer from hay fever seasonally in spring, drippy nose syndrome called rhinitis which makes your nose runny and makes you feel like you need to blow it, and at other times the nose is stuffy and you might be constantly sneezing or even wheezing (i.e, pseudo asthma). If this gets more severe, the throat might close up and panic ensues. Itchy eyes to hot burning orbs for eyes which can also stream with tears.
Our skin becomes itchy with rashes or hives and can sometimes swell up in different areas or whole limbs, and this is called angioedema and varies in severity. For others it can lead to severe pain in the stomach and belly, and even fever, vomiting, bloating, wind, constipation, or diarrhoea. Blood pressure can drop leading to racing heart, as if we had just run for our lives from an incensed beast, but is in fact increased palpitations which can also cause brain fog and dizziness.
Tip # If you like flowers in the house, remember to pull out the pollen laden stamens out of tulips or lilies. Remember that if you have a cat, you shouldn’t have any lilies.
Tip # While part of the treatment for MCAS is using antihistamines and there are different types of antihistamine blockers which inhibit the histamine receptors. Be aware of your triggers. It might not always be seasonal, and can be induced by anxiety, food, exercise, temperatures, mould, alcohol (e.g., salicylates). There are also special creams to use topically on localised skin areas. H2 antihistamines are used more long-term. Stabilisers are medications cromolyn sodium and are good stabilisers for MCAS but this will be in line with medical practitioner. During acute stages of unexpected serious attacks epi pens are needed, for example in the case of anaphylaxis.
Jane Green MBE