Spring is here - allergies are here!

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to an inappropriate stimulus, such as dust, pollen, grass, pet dander, mold, etc. The immune system believes it is being invaded by a parasite rather than a harmless allergen in the environment, and therefore it rallies its defenses to fight off the enemy. Also the allergies keep getting worse as the immune system triggers a greater response after each exposure.

Allergy Symptoms

Runny nose, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, red, itchy eyes, prolonged cough, sinus headaches,frequent ear infections, lack of sleep, grogginess, asthma, skin rashes and eczema.

Allergy Triggers

 

There are many items in the environment that could cause your allergies. They fall into four general categories:

Animal dander — from dogs, cats and cockroaches ( Year round)

   Contrary to popular belief, it’s not animal fur that causes allergies, it’s a protein in their saliva. When animals lick themselves, the protein attaches to the fur and that’s when it becomes the problem. Then animals shed and their fur sticks in carpeting, upholstery, etc. where it can stay for months.

The same protein found in saliva is also present in animals’ urine. Therefore, gerbils, hamsters and other small caged animals could cause problems for allergy-prone individuals.

Pets aren’t the only problem. Cockroaches, common to tropical areas, also contribute large allergen particles to the space around us. Proteins in their saliva and feces become airborne easily and circulate through the air without your knowledge.

 
Mold and mildew ( Year-round, especially bad in rainy seasons)

  Simply put, mold is bad. So bad that exposure sometimes seriously affects non-allergic people. Mold reproduces when airborne spores land on wet surfaces, so any room with moisture is vulnerable, especially those that don’t dry thoroughly (like bathrooms counters, showers and bathtubs, and refrigerator drip trays). Also, plumbing leaks could cause major problems to your home and your health if they’re not fixed immediately.
Dust mites ( Year round)

    These microscopic creatures can create big allergy problems. As they float through the air or reproduce in carpeting, upholstery and bedding, the protein in their droppings pollute the environment and cause perennial problems for a many allergy sufferers. Vacuuming, dusting with a damp cloth, and washing sheets regularly can help but, unfortunately, dust mites are hard to completely avoid.

 

          
Pollen — from trees, grass and weeds
Have you ever rolled in the grass and then started itching? It’s allergies. The worst offenders are Bermuda, Johnson, Kentucky bluegrass, Orchard, Sweet vernal, and Timothy grasses. When lawn mowers cut them, the pollen starts flying. Keep in mind that pollen can stow away on you clothes and on your pets, so vacuum and shower frequently.

Tree pollen is another big troublemaker, and these varieties are especially to blame: sycamore, hickory, walnut, pecan, poplar, cottonwood, box elder, red maple, silver maple, willow, ash, date palm and Phoenix palm trees. Some people have cross-reactions to alder, beech, birch, oak, juniper, and cedar families as well. Removing these trees from your garden may be of little help to allergies; tree pollen can travel up to 50 miles on a strong wind.

Weeds are not only the bane of existence to gardeners, but also allergy sufferers, as they are regular pollen factories. Ragweed is the worst offender, as one plant can release 1 million grains of pollen each day. Other troublemakers are sagebrush, redroot, pigweed, lamb’s quarters, Russian thistle (tumbleweed) and English plantain.

 

 

Allergy testing:

    We perform a  skin test usually on the back for 72-80 environmental and some food allergens.  We advise to be without allergy medications for at least 3 days prior to the testing. After the antigen is applied we read the response in 15-20 minutes and discuss the results with the patient. Usually the test is well tolerated. There be some itching after the test which can be treated with Benadryl and 1% Hydrocortisone cream.

 

 

.There are three options for battling allergies

1. Avoidance

This is always the first course of action...avoid things that make you allergic. This approach is not always practical or desirable. For instance, you may be able to remove offending plants from your home but pollen can travel up to 50 miles, so you are always vulnerable to trees, flowers and weeds from your neighborhood and city. Animals that cause allergies may be taken away but their dander can remain in a home for up to six months; if you visit a home with pets, their hair stays when they're not present. Additionally, even thorough efforts to clear your home of allergens can fall short against relentless household dust, cockroaches or hidden mold. Therefore, avoidance is a major challenge and it can significantly impact your quality of life (especially if you like the animals, trees and flowers that cause your allergies).

2. Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a natural allergy remedy. It's a process that desensitizes your body to allergens by introducing them to your body, via serum, in small doses. As treatment progresses, the amount of these allergens (also known as antigens) in the serum increases so your immune system learns to tolerate and then ignore them, making you a much happier person during allergy season!

There are two types of immunotherapy: shots and sublingual (under the tongue) drops. Both are effective.

3. Medication

The goal of virtually all prescription and over-the-counter allergy medications like Claritin(loratadine), Zyrtec(Cetrizine), Allegra (Fexonfenadine) is to stop allergy symptoms temporarily. They do nothing to relieve the CAUSE of your allergies, which is why your misery returns every time you encounter allergens your body doesn't like.

 

 

 

 

Author
Anjali Kher, M.D, F.A.A.P Dr. Kher is a pediatrician in private practice in Plainfield, Naperville, IL. After completing her training in Pediatrics at University of Illinois at Chicago she was offered the position of Chief Resident. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

You Might Also Enjoy...