Insurance Update
June 2014
Issue No. 47      
In this issue
Do you suffer from allergies?
Welcome to allergy season.
More about allergies.
Toxicant-induced loss of tolerance.
Long-Term Care Insurance

Do you suffer from allergies? 

Seasonal allergies are mostly caused by tree, grass, and weed pollen during the spring, summer and early fall.   



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Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides ancillary coverage for ministers and other employees of congregations, districts, and camps.
Medical and ancillary plans are available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.
Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities.  
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Greetings from the Brethren Insurance Services staff.


We hope you are enjoying the lovely late spring weather. But are you also suffering -- from spring allergies? If you are, you are not alone. The Food and Drug Administration estimates there are approximately 36 million people in the United States who suffer from seasonal allergies. This figure rises to 50 million if you include asthma and all other allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.


Read on to understand more about these seasonal allergies, to find some tips for dealing with them, and then to catch a glimpse of a more serious and growing kind of allergic reaction.


It is an irony of the season that the allergens that cause discomfort come from beautiful, blossoming plants and flowering trees and are carried on warm breezes. The mixed blessings of spring are among the mysteries of God's creation. Anyone with "hay fever" knows this. But even those of us who are sneezing and rubbing itchy eyes can be glad for the beauties of this late spring season
SignaturesScott, Tammy, and Connie 
WelcomeWelcome to allergy season

As allergy sufferers know, the arrival of spring brings much more than April showers, May flowers, and June's leafy bowers. It also brings sneezes; itchy, watery eyes; and other cold-like symptoms.


It's something a growing number of people over age 60 confront for the first time. It used to be if people didn't have seasonal allergies when young, doctors thought they were unlikely to develop them later. This is no longer true.


Allergist Michael Foggs says he is seeing more older allergy patients for the first time. There are many theories on why older people are now more likely to develop allergies, but none are proven. It could be due to an allergy diagnosis being missed earlier, environmental changes in the air we breathe and food we eat, or something else altogether.



Spring allergies, commonly called hay fever, have nothing to do with hay or fever. Rather, they are tied to pollen from grass, trees, or ragweed, and mold growing outdoors in fields and on dead leaves.


These pollens are hard to avoid. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says a single ragweed plant may release 1 million tiny pollen grains in just one day. There are even more mold spores growing everywhere.


Foggs, an allergist and president of the ACAAI, says all people have an allergy protein in their bodies and breathe in pollen and mold. Pollen and mold can trigger an allergic response in about 25 percent of the population. An allergic response results when a protein in the blood called immunoglobin E releases a chemical called histamine.


Histamine tightens small blood vessels of the nose, making fluids leak out into other tissues. This causes noses to run, eyes to water, and skin to itch and swell.



The first step in evaluating possible allergy symptoms is to see a doctor who will take a detailed history of your lifestyle, of your home and work environment, of your eating habits, and of other factors to search for clues as to which "allergen" may be causing your symptoms.


In some circumstances, skin testing may be recommended. This consists of placing small amounts of common  

allergens on your skin, usually your forearm or back. Over time, your skin will become red, swollen, and/or itchy in those areas where you are allergic.


Once you know what causes your allergies, your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce nasal congestion, sneezing, and itching. Allergy medications come in many different forms such as tablets, nasal sprays, eye drops, and liquid, depending on the drug. Sometimes allergy shots are recommended.


The theory is that exposure to small amounts of the offending allergen over time will decrease your sensitivity as well as the severity of your allergic reaction and possibly eliminate it altogether.



Limiting exposure to the allergens also can help reduce symptoms. The ACAAI suggests the following methods for lessening your exposure to pollen and mold --

  • Keep windows closed and use air conditioning at home and in the car whenever possible.
  • Dry clothes, sheets, and towels in a dryer rather than hanging them outside, where they may collect pollen from the air.
  • Limit the time spent outdoors in the early morning hours, from 5-10 a.m., when the air is most heavily saturated with pollen and mold.
  • Wear a pollen mask when mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or gardening.

This article was excerpted and adapted from, "Ah-choo! Welcome to spring allergy season" in Life Times, the quarterly newsletter of BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois (Spring, 2014, vol. XXIX, no. 2)

 allergies2More about allergies     


Allergic reactions manifest as --

  • asthma when the reaction is in the lungs.
  • allergic conjunctivitis when in the eyes.
  • allergic rhinitis when in the nasal tissues.

Allergic rhinitis is the most common and results in nasal discharge and congestion that can cause facial pressure and pain. Often there is post-nasal drip that can a cause sore throat, a hoarse voice, and dysfunction in the Eustachian tube felt as a popping in the ears.



The weather has a definite effect. In a warmer winter season, the trees pollinate earlier and prolong the allergy season. When there is great contrast between the seasons, the sharp changes can cause spikes in the pollen counts that trigger allergic reactions, even in patients not previously suffering from allergies. The number of people suffering from allergies has been rising over the years, which is thought to be related to higher pollen counts.



  • Irrigate the nasal passage with a saline rinse
  • Use nasal sprays
  • Take oral antihistamines
  • Consult your doctor

Remember that other allergens -- from pets, dust mites, mold, environmental elements -- may magnify the symptoms of spring allergies.


Ideas found in "Coping with spring allergies," by Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun, May 28, 2014.

toleranceToxicant-induced loss of tolerance

Spring allergies are only part of the picture. People also react to milk, to peanuts, to gluten, to fish -- there is a long list that seems to grow longer as the reactions grow more intense. Then there are the chemicals in the objects that surround us -- from furniture to paint to clothing to building materials to computers to the omnipresent cellphones. Some argue that the chemicals cause changes in the body that increase allergic responses.


Claudia Miller, an environmental health expert at the University of Texas in San Antonio, studies a phenomenon she calls toxicant-induced loss of tolerance.



TILT, says Miller, is a two-step process: First, a susceptible individual gets sick after toxic exposure or exposures. But then, instead of recovering, the neurological and immune systems remain damaged, and the individual fails to get well. The sufferer begins to lose tolerance to a wide range of chemicals common in everyday life.


The latest research, both in the United States and abroad, suggests that the processing of the brain itself is altered so that the neurological setpoint for sensitivity falls. The person, now sick, becomes highly sensitive to chemical exposures. The individual is like a fireplace after the original fire has died down: The embers still glow a brilliant orange, ready to burst into flame with the slightest assistance.


Individuals with TILT can become increasingly more reactive over time, until they find themselves responding adversely to the mere whiff or dollop of everyday chemicals -- at concentrations far below established toxicity. The triggering substances are often structurally unrelated and range from airborne molecules to ordinary drugs and supplements, lotions, detergents, soaps, newsprint, and once-cherished foods like chocolate, pizza, or beer.


Exposures result in a bewildering variety of symptoms such as cardiac and neurological abnormalities, headaches, bladder disturbances, asthma, depression, anxiety, gut problems, impaired cognitive ability, and sleep disorders.


It is a long continuum that has spring allergies on one end and the disabilities of environmental illness on the other, but we are reminded to pay attention to what we breathe and ingest, and to have compassion for those who suffer, whether from "hay fever" or TILT. Further, we are reminded that humans need to work for a world with cleaner air and products made from more "natural" substances.


Excerpted and adapted from a long article in the November 2013 issue of Discover magazine, found at
 LTCILong-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is like car or home insurance for Suzanne Schaudel, a lifelong member of the Lancaster (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. "You hope you won't need it, but if you do, it's there. It's security for my family."


Suzanne gave it careful thought before she made her decision. "I felt very good about all the interactions with Brethren Benefit Trust." She discussed possibilities at Annual Conference; she learned more when Randy Yoder came to see her. She concluded, "It made sense. It was a wise opportunity."


Let Randy Yoder help you consider long-term care insurance. Brethren Insurance Services offers LTCI for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.


Contact Brethren Insurance Services at or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or click here to request more information.