Although spring is the most beautiful season of the year, it is dreaded by many because it is also allergy season. The most common allergens become widespread in the environment causing people to be sneezing, wheezing, and feeling very sick. To combat allergy symptoms and sneezing during the spring season, it is important to know a few things about allergies.
What are allergies?
An allergy is an abnormal response of the immune system to a substance in the environment. This substance is called an allergen and is usually harmless to others that are not allergic to it. Once the body is exposed to an allergen, it reacts to it by releasing chemicals, primarily Histamine, which cause the allergy symptoms.
Symptoms of allergies:
There are many different symptoms for allergies and they often depend on the particular allergen or individual that is allergic. The most common symptoms of allergies are sneezing, wheezing, coughing, itchy eyes and nose, runny nose, hives, rashes, and a general ill or tired feeling. Food allergies can also cause diarrhea and vomiting in addition to these symptoms. Allergies to insect stings can cause localized swelling and redness.
Severe allergic reactions:
Some individuals can have very severe allergic reactions especially when it comes to food or insect stings. The symptoms for severe allergic reactions are similar to the above, but, can be very debilitating and incapacitating. Anaphylaxis is the most severe and dangerous allergic reaction. Individuals that suffer anaphylaxis can experience hives and itching all over their body, shortness of breath, tightening of the throat, and tingling in the extremities. Anaphylaxis is very dangerous and can be fatal.
Many different kinds of substances can be allergens to certain people. Here is a list of the 7 major categories of allergens and the most common allergens for each category:
1. Animal Products – allergy to cats, fur, dander, cockroach calyx, wool, dust mites
2. Drugs – Penicillin and Sulfonamides
3. Foods – nuts, eggs, wheat, corn, gluten, soy, seafood
4. Insect Stings – mosquito stings, bee stings, and wasp stings
5. Fungal allergens – mold spores
6. Seasonal Allergens – tree pollen, weed pollen, grass pollen
7. Synthetic Allergens – latex and metal
The easiest allergens to determine are the seasonal allergens. There is a skin test available in which different kinds of allergens are placed directly on the skin to see what kind of reaction they have. This can be very helpful in treating seasonal allergies.
Other kinds of allergies are usually determined when the person develops allergy symptoms soon after being exposed to a certain substance. To determine food allergies, individuals can eliminate foods that commonly cause allergies from their diet for a few weeks and then reintroducing them one by one to their diet and monitoring their body’s response.
Treatment for Allergies:
The most commonly used medications for the treatment of allergy symptoms are antihistamines,
decongestants, and corticosteroids. Antihistamines directly block Histamine receptors in the body and prevent allergy symptoms. Decongestants help relieve congestion caused by allergies and can be used in combination with antihistamines. Corticosteroids help reduce the inflammation caused by the allergic response to the allergen and are often also used in combination with antihistamines.
Natural Treatments for Allergies:
One of the best ways to reduce allergy symptoms in the long-term is by introducing small doses of the allergen so the body becomes desensitized to it. Most natural stores offer drops or capsules for common allergens. Local honey is also widely used for this purpose. It is effective because bees pick up pollen from the area which is then passed on in their honey.
Another way to prevent being hit hard during the allergy season is to strengthen the immune system with vitamin C, fish oil, and licorice root. Since the body responds to allergens with inflammation, eating anti-inflammatory foods, such as leafy greens, berries, tea, extra virgin olive oil and Wild Alaskan salmon, can also be helpful.