Allergy or Cold?
By Joan Weems, RN, Victory Home Health, Texoma LIVING WELL Magazine
It’s the third time this morning that you have had a sneezing fit. “Oh my, am I taking a cold or is this just allergies?” The cold-like symptoms include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, but perhaps it’s the recent weather change. Well, if you get similar symptoms at the same time every year, chances are you probably have seasonal allergies. With spring bearing down upon us, take precautions now for allergies.
Allergies are a short-term inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the nasal passages. “Hay fever,” as the condition is commonly called, is not caused by hay. It is caused by airborne pollens from trees, grasses, flowers, and weeds or, in some cases, spores from mold, dander or dust. Allergy season typically kicks off in the spring and fall when certain trees or grasses pollinate. Our pollen season starts when the trees start budding (sometimes in February) and grass usually starts around April and continues throughout February. Another round of allergies may begin in late summer or early fall when ragweed is the culprit. These airborne pollens enter the body through the eyes, nose, or throat, and trigger an allergic reaction.
Normally, the immune system does not respond to mild substances like pollen and mold. But in sensitive individuals, the body’s defense mechanism views these allergens as it would an infectious agent or an “outsider” and mounts an attack. Once the immune system has detected the “invader,” it unleashes a cascade of chemicals such as histamine and other compounds resulting in localized inflammation that leads to irritation and discomfort. The symptoms of allergic reaction begin five to 10 minutes after allergen exposure, and subside within an hour, only to return two to four hours later.
Cost and Symptoms
Allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) is caused by pollen and other allergens and affects more than 40 million Americans yearly with a cost of more than $1 billion in annual treatment costs. Although allergies are not usually a dangerous condition, they can certainly be very uncomfortable and, for some people, can severely disrupt daily activities. The standard reactions include sneezing, congestion, a tickle in your throat, headache, swollen sinuses, runny nose, red, itchy, watery eyes, dry cough, sleep disturbances and sometimes impaired sense of taste or smell.
Although allergies can develop later in life, they usually show up before age 30. The average age that allergies begin is 10 years. Like other problems that involve an abnormal immune system response, allergies tend to run in families. More than half of allergy sufferers have a close relative with a history of allergies. Seasonal allergies do not seem to discriminate between men and women or ethnic background.
There is no real cure for seasonal allergies, but it is possible to relieve symptoms. Start by reducing or eliminating your exposure to allergens. During allergy season, keep windows closed, use air conditioning if possible, and stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
Wash your hands or shower and change clothing after being outside. And don’t mow the lawn if that tends to excite your allergies (this tends to kick up pollen and mold spores). If you have to mow your lawn, wear a mask.
If reducing exposure isn’t possible or is ineffective, medicines can help ease allergy symptoms. They may include decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal spray steroids. If symptoms cannot be managed with medicines, the doctor may recommend an allergist or immunologist.
Hope you have a great allergy-free spring. If you have any questions about your healthcare, Victory Home Health & Hospice plus Medical Equipment is in your community to serve you. We would love to have you come by and visit or give us a call at 888-815-7922. Our doors are always welcome to you.