Allergies are abnormal reactions to ordinarily harmless substances. Allergens that most frequently cause problems are: pollens, mold spores, house dust mites, animal dander’s, foods, insect bites or stings, plants, insect spores, latex rubber, viruses, bacteria, medications and environmental conditions (such as cold temperatures). Allergic reactions can occur in one area, such as sneezing or a skin rash or sneezing, or may include more than one symptom.
Symptoms of Pollen Allergy
- Stuffy or Runny Nose
- Watery irritated eyes
- Breathing difficulty or wheezing
- Drowsiness and sickness and unwell
- Itchy skin or rash
Causes and Risk Factors of Allergies
The fundamental cause of allergy is still not known. The problem has a tendency to run in families. An allergic individual is more likely to have relatives who are allergic than would be expected on the basis of chance, but non-hereditary factors apparently play a part as well. Evidence of this is the fact that infants who are breast fed are less likely to develop allergies than bottle-fed babies.
Allergic rhinitis is a general term used to apply to anyone who has allergy-based symptoms. Allergic rhinitis can be a seasonal problem (commonly known as hay fever or pollen allergy) or a year-round problem (commonly known as perennial allergic rhinitis). Hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis is caused by allergy to pollens of trees, grasses, weeds or mold spores. Perennial allergic rhinitis is caused by house dust, animal danders, mold and some foods.
Asthma is caused by intrinsic and extrinsic (inhaled) factors. Intrinsic factors are pollens, dust, dust mites, animal fur, animal dander or feathers. Extrinsic factors are respiratory infections; a cough, cold or bronchitis; exercise and tobacco smoke or other air pollutants, and can be caused by an allergy to a particular food or medication.
Eczema, also known as allergic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis, can be caused by foods or other allergens.
Contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to certain plants (such as poison ivy or poison oak), cosmetics, medications, metals and chemicals.
Urticaria, also known as hives, is caused by allergy to foods, such as nuts, tomatoes, shellfish and berries. Hives can also be caused by medications, such as aspirin and penicillin.
Each spring, summer, and fall, tiny particles are released from trees, weeds, and grasses. These tiny particles are known as pollen, hitch rides on currents of air. Although their mission is to fertilize parts of other plants, many never reach their targets. Instead, they enter human noses and throats, triggering a type of seasonal allergic rhinitis called pollen allergy, which many people know as hay fever or rose fever (depending on the season in which the symptoms occur). Of all the things that can cause an allergy, pollen is one of the most widespread.
What is hay fever? What are the symptoms and signs?
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, frequently include nasal congestion, a clear runny nose, sneezing, nose and eye itching, and excess tear production in the eyes. Postnasal dripping of clear mucus frequently causes a cough. Loss of the sense of smell is common, and loss of taste sense occurs occasionally. Nose bleeding may occur if the condition is severe. Eye itching, redness, and excess tears in the eyes frequently accompany the nasal symptoms. The eye symptoms are referred to as allergic conjunctivitis (inflammation of the whites of the eyes). These allergic symptoms often interfere with one’s quality of life and overall health.
How can I Avoid Allergens?
Shower or bathe before bedtime to wash off pollen and other allergens in your hair and on your skin. Avoid going outside, especially on dry, windy days. Keep windows and doors shut, and use an air conditioner at home and in your car.
You can reduce the amount of mold in your home by removing houseplants and by frequently cleaning shower curtains, bathroom windows, damp walls, areas with dry rot and indoor trash cans. Use a mix of water and chlorine bleach to kill mold. Open doors and windows and use fans to increase air movement and help prevent mold. Reducing the humidity in your home to 50% or less can also help.
If your allergies are severe, you may need to give your pets away or at least keep them outside. Cat or dog dander often collects in house dust and takes 4 weeks or more to die down. However, there are ways to reduce the amounts of pet dander in your home. Using allergen-resistant bedding, bathing your pet frequently, and using an air filter can help reduce pet dander. Ask your veterinarian for other ways to reduce pet dander in your home.
Dust and Dust Mites
To reduce dust mites in your home, remove drapes, feather pillows, upholstered furniture, non-washable comforters and soft toys. Replace carpets with linoleum or wood. Polished floors are best. Mop the floor often with a damp mop and wipe surfaces with a damp cloth. Vacuum regularly with a machine that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Vacuum soft furniture and curtains as well as the floors. Install an air cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate or electrostatic filter. Don’t use mattress pads. Cover mattress and pillows with plastic covers. Lower the humidity in your home using a dehumidifier.
Things that can make your allergy symptoms worse:
- Aerosol sprays
- Air pollution
- Cold temperatures
- Irritating fumes
- Tobacco smoke
- Wood Smoke
How are Allergies Treated?
Avoidance of identified allergens is the most helpful factor in controlling allergy symptoms. Attempts to control the environment and avoidance measures often significantly aid in resolving symptoms. If avoidance is not possible or does not relieve symptoms, additional treatment is needed. Many patients respond to medications that combat the effects of histamine, known as antihistamines.
If antihistamines and nasal sprays are not effective or not tolerated by the patient, other modalities of therapy are available. Allergy desensitization or immunotherapy may be needed. The success rate of an allergy desensitization programme in significantly reducing symptoms can be up to about 80%. The duration of the effect of allergy immunotherapy should last many years, if not a lifetime.