Does it seem as if allergens are everywhere, and everyone around you (including yourself) is suffering from seasonal allergies? That’s clearly an exaggeration, but maybe not by as much as you think. Allergies are one of the more common and irritating health conditions. However, there’s a lot that you can do to improve your quality of life.
How Many People Suffer From Allergies?
According to Dr. Paivi Salo at the National Institute of Health, allergies affect about 10% to 30% of adults and 40% of children. That’s over 30 million people at the low end of the estimate! If you have allergies, you’ve got a lot of company.
What Are Allergies?
You may be very familiar with the uncomfortable symptoms, but what is an allergy? The short answer is that an allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to something that is technically harmless. Normally, that system detects that germs or something else foreign are invading your body. The body attacks the problem with a flood of antibodies including histamine. For some people, their immune system treats things like mold spores or peanuts as if it were a dangerous germ. Your body attacks itself to try to protect itself.
What Can You Be Allergic To?
- Dust Mites
- Mold and Mildew
- Pet Dander
- Wool (technically, the lanolin on the wool)
- Bee Stings
- Foods like Nuts and Shellfish
- Medicines like Penicillin or Ibuprophen
Are Allergies Seasonal?
If you are allergic to something, it won’t magically go away just because the calendar shows a certain month. However, certain allergens are much more common at certain times of the year.
Spring: This cheerful time of year brings an abundance of pollen, which coats you when you go outside to enjoy the weather.
Summer: If you live in a wet part of the country, worry about mold. If you live somewhere dry, summertime temperatures will dry out your mucous membranes and make dust allergies worse.
Autumn: Dead, decaying leaves and the resultant allergens are the dark side of this colorful season.
Winter: You likely keep your pets indoors, meaning dander has more of a chance to build up. Meanwhile, the winter holiday season is rife with food allergies sneaking into family potlucks.
What Are The Symptoms of Allergies?
Symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening. Depending on what you’re allergic to, you may experience:
- Runny Nose
- Stuffy Nose
- Watering Eyes
- Sneezing and Coughing
- Itching Eyes and Skin
- Rashes and Hives
- Vomiting and Diarrhea
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition marked by difficulty breathing due to swelling of the face and neck, dropping blood pressure, and a weak pulse. It requires immediate emergency care.
What Can You Do to Tackle Your Allergies?
Medical professionals have much to offer to treat allergies, and there are many steps you can take yourself, including natural and over-the-counter (OTC) relief. Prevention is a major factor here. Try to limit your contact with allergens. Some tips and tricks include:
- Limit time outside on pollen-heavy days.
- Wipe down your pet when he’s been outside.
- Install a high efficiency particulate (HEPA) air filter, either freestanding or attached to your HVAC system.
- Read labels to avoid problem ingredients.
- Wash away allergens with a nasal rinse. If you use a neti pot, use bottled water or tap water that you’ve boiled and cooled.
- Stay hydrated. Thirst causes your mucous membranes to dry out and be more easily irritated.
- Inhale steam to open a stuffy nose.
- Avoid smoke.
- Use OTC medications such as decongestants and eye drops formulated to relieve itching eyes.
It’s easy to overdo drugstore medications. Follow the instructions carefully and don’t take more than the recommended dose. If they don’t offer you enough relief, you may need to go to your healthcare facility for a prescription.
What Can Medical Professionals Do?
If you think you have allergies, or if they’re getting worse and you’re struggling to manage the symptoms, talk to a medical professional, who can help you in two vital ways: testing and treatment. Allergy Testing lets you know what allergens trigger your reactions and the treatment builds your body’s tolerance to the allergens.
Testing can be quick and inexpensive. As Dr. Gregory Blomquist, Chief Medical Officer at the CommunityMed urgent care clinic in Haslet, Texas, advises: “With any condition, it always pays to get diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible. If you want to rest assured your medical care is on the right track, always seek diagnosis and treatment by medical professionals.”
Your road to allergy recovery starts with an accurate diagnosis. A medical professional can give you a skin-prick test or blood test to see exactly what you are reacting to. After that, you may be counseled on strategies to avoid allergens. You may also be given a prescription for stronger antihistamines, corticosteroids, or decongestants than the OTC varieties at your local drug store. Your testing facility may also recommend other therapies to help you, such as immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a highly effective treatment option for many people. It’s often used by those who cannot avoid the allergen and struggle to control their symptoms. Immunotherapy can be administered at some medical facilities. In this process, you get regular injections of the allergen. Sometimes the treatment can skip the needle and be placed under your tongue. The dose is gradually raised over the course of several treatments. The goal is to train your body’s immune system not to overreact to the allergen.