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Allergic Reactions and Other General Cautions

Part of A Practical Guide to Herbal Therapies for People Living With HIV

2004

Few serious side effects have been reported by people who use herbal therapies. But no reportage doesn't mean that herbal therapies never cause problems. We have tried to mention important side effects in our overview of each therapy, but you should not assume that all possible side effects are covered. We encourage you to do more research into any herb you intend to include among your treatments.

Some herbs may cause allergic reactions, especially for people who suffer from hay fever or other plant-related allergies. That said, anyone can have an allergic reaction. While most allergic reactions cause only minor problems, such as itchy skin, a few isolated hives or runny eyes and nose, more serious allergic reactions can be life-threatening. Watch for allergy symptoms when starting a new treatment. Even mild symptoms should prompt you to reconsider your use of an herb: symptoms will likely become more severe over time. If you have any of the following signs of a serious allergic reaction, go to a hospital emergency room immediately:

  • Extensive skin rashes, hives or welts around the eyes and lips.

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  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing.

  • Abdominal pain, cramps, vomiting or diarrhea.

  • Muscle contractions, weakness.

  • Restriction of your airway.

  • Problems with concentration and thinking clearly

Drug interactions may be a real concern for HIV-positive people. When trying herbal therapies, it's important to consider that much of what we know about herbs is based on how they were used traditionally. The people who passed this knowledge down over time could not possibly anticipate an herb's interactions with the host of drugs taken by many people with HIV. Although you will want to learn as much as you can about possible interactions before starting a new treatment, you're also wise to watch for unexpected symptoms when you begin a new therapy. It may be useful to keep a journal of how you feel each day and what changes, if any, might be due to the treatment. If you're experimenting with the dose, you should also record this information. Your journal is a more reliable record than your memory, which often retains only the most dramatic experiences, good and bad. A journal will help you determine whether changes in your life are associated with a particular treatment. It will give you a record that you can discuss with your doctor or complementary therapy practitioner. A journal is also a good source of information if other people ask about your experiences.





  
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This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 

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