What is pollen? This part of Virginia get Polled TsunamiHow allergies work:For most of us spring times means sunshine, green grass and bloomingflowers. But for some it can also mean sneezing, watery eyes and even troublebreathing. Its nice to smell theflowers and its nice to be out there. Spring is around the corner and very soonflowers will bloom and there will be pollen everywhere. It won’t be long beforeyou start sneezing, sniffling and rubbing your eyes. If you can relate to this,you are one of many who suffer from allergies.
What is an allergy? One might ask. An allergy is hypersensitiveresponse of the immune system. Normally our immune system protests us againstdisease causing agents (bacteria, viruses, parasites) and other foreignsubstances that are not part of our body.
Butthere are many substances that enter our body that our immune system sees asharmless which can include pet hair, dust mites, and pollen. However some peoplesimmune system over reacts to certain foreign substances that are otherwiseharmless. Allergies are the immune system’s specific reaction to a normallyharmless substance such as pollens, certain foods, or medicines. There are twomain types, seasonal and perennial. The seasonal variety occurs at specifictimes of the year, while the perennial variety can happen year-round.
We willtalk about seasonal allergies today. Any substance that causes allergies isreferred to as allergen. Allergies are a big concern as up to 40% of world’spopulation is affected by allergies and the number is expected to rise becauseof global warming and air pollution.
How is an allergicreaction triggered? Let’s say that there is a lot of pollen in the air.Pollen enters the body via mucus membranes, such as nose, eyes, and mouth. In aperson with predisposition to allergies, immune system mistakes this harmlesssubstance/pollen/allergen as a potential threat.
The first time immune system comes in contactwith allergen it reacts by activating specific cells. These activated cellsproduce large proteins called antibodies. These antibodies then attach to otherimmune cells making them sensitive to specific allergen. It sort of creates along term memory of the allergen. The next time same allergen enters the body,these sensitive immune cells with memory quickly attach to the allergen whichcauses them to release natural chemical including histamine. These chemicalsenter the surrounding tissues and cause many of the early symptoms of allergies/allergic Rhinitis (or Hay Fever)- which happens to be the most common allergicconditions. Allergic rhinitis involves inflammation of the mucous membranes ofthe nose, eyes, eustachian tubes, middle ear, sinuses, and pharynx. The noseinvariably is involved, and the other organs are affected in certainindividuals.
Most common symptomsinclude nasal congestion, rhinitis, post-nasal drip, sneezing, or stuffy nose,and ear pain, itchy, puffy, red and watery eyes. Allergies can cause vaguesystematic symptoms including fatigue, headache, itching, and coughing andthreat irritation. So now the most important question: Why do we have the allergies in the first place? How does it make sense that something harmlessto one person can be so harmful to another person? Well it does not make any sense, at least notyet. Scientists cannot quiet agree yet. However they do know that two factorsplay an important role in someone developing allergies. Those two factors are genetics and environment.If one of your parents has allergies, you have a 50% chance of developing them,and if both of your parents have allergies, you have 70% chance. Those withgenetic predisposition to allergies will develop more than one type ofallergies in their lifetime.
As mentioned earlier environment also plays arole. Researchers are finding more evidence in support of Hygiene Hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, childrensurrounded by good hygiene have less developed immune system then those exposedto dirt, grime, bacteria, parasites and allergens because it suppresses thenormal development of immune system. This hypothesis is backed up by research studythat suggested children who went to day care, and thus were exposed to lots of viruseshad lower rate of developing allergies compare to those children who did not goto day care. Another Swedish studyindicated that farmers’ children who had constant contact with animals beforethe age of 7 and drank unpasteurized milk did not develop as allergies aschildren in the city. So yes, go head and let your children get dirty!! Theearlier children become exposed to various things, the sooner they will buildup resistance to them and they will be able to tolerate them better.
Management: How to control allergies: What can youdo to tackle the allergies? SO if you haveallergies, you might not be able to enjoy the blossoms of spring no matter howbrutal the winter was. Thatbeing said one thing that you can do is, be a detective, start pinpointingyour allergies. You can start withminimizing the exposure by taking a few simple measures at home. Use Saline sprays and irrigations to wash the microscopicallergens from your nose and eyes.
When you go outside, you are covered inpollen, do not get into bed with your clothes. Take your clothes off, and takea shower before you get into bed because otherwise you are taking the allergenswith you to bed and sleeping in it which can further worsen the symptoms. Pollen is microscopic and you do not alwayssee it with the naked eye but it is there. Therefore it is important to take a showerbefore getting into bed. Pollen doespenetrate into the home, to control that you can get an air purifier. Whenbuying an air purifier, look for one with HEPA filter as it best removes thepollen from air.
Keeping the windows shut, not rolling downs the windows inyour car also decreases your exposure. You can also get hypoallergenic beddingor bed coverers. Hydrate well: as dehydration is associated with increasehistamine level (chemical that causes the symptoms of allergies in the body). Hydration lowers the histamine level.
You can get hydration powders called DripDrop powder at any pharmacy whichallows you to replenish electrolytes along with hydration. Use Vaseline at the opening of your nose;this will help trap allergens and prevent them from entering nasal mucusmembrane. If you are mowing the lawn, or cleaning the car – use a mask. Petsare a huge source of bringing pollen into the house. It is difficult to washpets daily, wipe them down when they get back into the house after a walk or anoutdoor activity. Get tested and ifaffordable get allergy shots- newer extract and better resolution.
Finally, youcan also download application on your smart phone that allows you to monitorpollen count to prepare yourself for outdoor accordingly. If you took all thepreventive measure and you are still having symptoms, what else can you do? Thereare many pharmacological treatments that are available for allergies. You canstart with over the counter Antihistamine to get the ball rolling. There aremany different types of antihistamine, 24 hours allergy relief, drowsy, and non-drowsyones.
Consult a doctor early on Pharmacological Management: Nose: Eyes: Ear: Respiratory Gastrointestinal symptoms