Allergies & Hay Fever
Why does the body develop allergies?
When an allergen reenters the body, the immune system rapidly recognizes it causing a series of reactions. These reactions often involve tissue destruction, blood vessel dilation, and production of many inflammatory substances including histamine. Histamine produces common allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, nasal and sinus congestion, headaches, sneezing, scratchy throat, hives, shortness of breath, etc. Other less common symptoms are balance disturbances, skin irritations such as eczema, and even respiratory problems like asthma.
What allergens should be avoided?
How can allergies be managed?
For some allergy sufferers symptoms may be seasonal, but for others it is a year-round discomfort. Allergy symptom control is most successful when multiple management approaches are used simultaneously. They may include minimizing exposure to allergens, desensitization with allergy shots, and medications.
If used properly, medications, including antihistamines, nasal decongestant sprays, steroid sprays, saline sprays, and cortisone-type preparations, can be helpful. Even over-the-counter drugs can be beneficial, but some may cause drowsiness.
When should a doctor be consulted?
In addition, the doctor may advise testing to determine the specific allergen that is causing discomfort. In some cases immunotherapy or allergy shots may be recommended. Immunotherapy is a unique treatment because it induces the build up of protective antibodies to specific allergens.
Tips for reducing the exposure to common allergens
- Wear a pollen mask when mowing grass or house cleaning (most drugstores sell them).
- Change the air filters regularly in heating and air conditioning systems, and/or install an air purifier.
- Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollen seasons.
- Rid the home of sources of mildew.
- Don't allow dander-producing animals (i.e., cats, dogs, etc.) into the home and bedroom.
- Change feather pillows, woolen blankets, and woolen clothing to cotton or synthetic materials.
- Enclose mattress, box springs, and pillows in plastic barrier cloth.
- Use antihistamines and decongestants as necessary and as tolerated.
- Sleep with the head of the bed tilted upward. Elevating the head of the bed helps relieve nasal congestion.
- Observe general good health practices: exercise daily, do not smoke, avoid air pollutants, eat a balanced diet, and supplement diet with vitamins, especially C.
- Use a humidifier in the winter. Be sure to clean the humidifier regularly to avoid mold build-up.
- Discuss hay fever and allergy symptoms with a physician when experiencing an allergic reaction.