Controlling Springtime Allergies
In the springtime, the blooming of many plants begins. During their blooming stage, plants begin to shed pollen molecules (allergens), which conflict with some people’s bodies. Common springtime/summer allergies are the result of the body’s reaction to certain molecules in the environment. These molecules are called allergens. These allergens can be many common items that are present in our environment, including dust and mold. Most people do not react to these elements, but you may be one whose body overreacts to these and experiences symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes.
Scientists believe that some people are born with allergies to certain allergens; however, a person can also develop allergies later in life, even to things that previously did not cause an allergic reaction. It is not necessarily true that moving away from a certain area will reduce allergy symptoms. A person can develop reactions to the allergens in the new area as well; so trying to move away from the problem is not a good solution.
The kind of potential allergens that may affect you often depends on the climatic zone in which you are living. Remember, spring and fall arrive at different times in Australia, South America, North America, and Europe. If you are living in a temperate climate like the USA during late April and May, you can expect allergens from tree pollen to be in the air and potentially cause you allergic symptoms. Allergies that occur in late May to mid July are often due to grass pollen, and those that occur in late August until the first frost are often due to ragweed. These are average dates and vary if you live in North Dakota or South Carolina where the plants come alive‚ earlier.
There are other allergens besides pollen that can cause spring and summer allergy symptoms:
Mold is a common allergen and is found where water collects such as window moldings, basements with poor drainage, shower curtains, and in your garden around rotting logs, compost bins, leaf litter, and decorative ponds. Mold allergies are common in places where the humidity is high or there is a lot of rainy weather.
Animals –Those who are allergic to animals are actually allergic to the allergens in the skin, saliva, and urine of furry animals (pet dander). Hamsters, cats, and dogs are usually good contributors when they reside inside the house and shed some of their protein allergens.
Dust can be either an allergen or an irritant. If it is dirt dust that bothers you, it is probably not a true allergy but rather sensitivity to or an irritation caused by the dirt getting into your respiratory tract. If it is the tiny living creatures called dust mites that are causing the symptoms, then it is probably a true allergy. Dust mites live in bedding, carpets, and mattresses, and on dead skin that is in the dust.
So what can you do to alleviate your suffering? Here are a few tips
Antihistamines usually decrease the runny nose, sneezing, and itching if you take them before symptoms occur (preventively during the season). Some of the newer antihistamines (Allegra, Zyrtec, etc.) do not cause drowsiness like the over the counter ones (Benadryl). Both pills and creams are available. If you generally dislike taking pills but your symptoms make it hard for you to sleep, use one of the older type antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) before you go to bed. These antihistamines will stop the symptoms and make you sleepy at the same time. The good night’s sleep will help the body.
Pseudoephedrine will temporarily decongest and relieve the stuffy nose and red eyes. This class of medicine, available in pills, sprays, and drops, should not be taken for more than three days or you can get addicted to them and feel worse when you stop using them.
Eye Drops that are prescription steroids can be given by your doctor.
Nasal Steroid Sprays also prescribed by your doctor can reduce the reaction of the nasal tissues to the inhaled allergens. These take a while to take effect, but are better than the over the counter meds for your body.
Cromolyn sodium nasal spray helps prevent your body’s allergic reactions. To be effective, it needs to be started 3-4 weeks before the allergy season.
Allergy Shots contain minute amounts of the allergen you are reacting to. Your family doctor or an allergist will determine what goes into these shots through skin allergy tests or blood tests. These shots are given on a regular basis (sometimes for years) so that your body gets used to the allergen and does not react with the usual symptoms.
The Best Policy:
Get and keep your body healthy and stay away from the allergens that you know will cause you the allergy symptoms.
printer friendly page
"Controlling Springtime Allergies"
Craig Karpilow MD FACOEM is a Board Certified Family Practitioner, Fellow of the American College of Occupational & Environmental Medicine and the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. He has published numerous articles in professional journa...