allergies symptoms spring
Spring is in the air – and so are a lot of other substances that may be causing itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose and sneezing. If you have allergies, your body’s delicate balance can be knocked out of kilter by hundreds of environmental triggers such as animals, plants, foods and medicines, to name a few.
With experts advising that 2016 will be an exceptionally bad spring allergy season, people who suffer from seasonal allergies need to be prepared. The unusual up-and-down weather patterns across the country all winter will likely cause a “pollen superburst” as temperatures warm.
Approximately 50 million individuals in the United States suffer from some form of allergies, and that number is growing. The cause of an allergy is not always known, but a family history of allergies is thought to be a primary risk factor.
An allergy is a reaction by your body’s immune system to something that does not typically bother other people, according to the National Institutes of Health. Simply put, your body’s defense system sees a certain substance – called an allergen – as a threat, and releases antibodies to fight it. Usually, people who have allergies have increased sensitivity to more than one allergen or group of allergens, such as certain types of grasses and trees, dust and lint, pollen and mold, and animal fur. The most common food allergies are the proteins in cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and tree nuts.
Allergic symptoms vary from person to person, can be seasonal or year-round, and reactions can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening (particularly in the case of severe food allergies). Some people are born with allergies, while others develop them later in life.
While Americans spend nearly $2 billion each year on over-the-counter allergy remedies, many feel these remedies have minimal ability in managing symptoms. There are also potential risks to self-medicating, as some over-the-counter medications can interfere with or interact poorly with other medications the patient is taking. If you suffer from more than just the occasional sneezing fit or itchy eyes, you should schedule a visit with your primary care physician ahead of allergy season to map out a plan.
Your primary care physician can refer you to a specialist such as an ear/nose/throat doctor (ENT) or an allergist/immunologist. An allergist/immunologist is an internal medicine physician, or a specialist in ear, nose and throat problems, with additional, specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases. He or she will review your medical history, perform testing to determine the nature and severity of an allergy, and develop a treatment plan.
A variety of diagnostic tools can help physicians find the specific cause of allergies, including skin tests, journal tracking and blood tests. Your physician can then determine the most appropriate treatment path, based on your age, health, and type and severity of symptoms.
There are many options for treating allergies, including:
• Over-the-counter remedies (oral medication, topical creams or nasal sprays)
• Prescription medication
• Combination of antihistamines
• Nasal steroid or cromolyn sodium sprays
• Eye drops
• Sublingual tablets
• Allergy shots
The right course of treatment depends on the severity and frequency of your symptoms. Allergy shots work like a vaccine, by exposing you to a small dose of the allergen, to build your resistance. Allergy shots are usually reserved for more severe, recurrent symptoms that do not respond to other treatment.
Timing is also important. Experts agree that you should begin applying appropriate allergy medications and remedies at least one to two weeks prior to the start of allergy season, and continue with the protocol throughout the season. It’s much more difficult to halt allergy symptoms once they’ve started.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information to facilitate conversations with their physician.
Here are some simple steps you can take on your own to control your allergy symptoms – in addition to any physician-prescribed treatment methods.
Stay tuned to the forecast. The National Allergy Bureau (www.aaaai.org/nab/index.cfm) reports current pollen and mold spore levels around the country. You can check the forecast for your area, and sign up for e-mail alerts.
Remain indoors during peak pollen periods. When outdoor pollen levels are highest – particularly sunny, windy days – consider staying indoors with the windows closed during the morning hours.
Protect your nose and mouth. If you must go outdoors, consider wearing a face mask designed to filter pollen out of the air and prevent it from reaching nasal passages.
Use your home and car air filtering systems. Your home and car air conditioners can help keep out pollen and mold allergens when placed on the “do-not-circulate” mode. HEPA and other special air filters are available to help reduce allergens produced in the home.
Article courtesy of Affinity Medical Center. For more information, consult their website at www.AffinityMedicalCenter.com.
allergies symptoms spring