Seasonal Allergies Overview
Allergies happen because your body decides to overreact about unwanted visitors, also known as allergens. There are plenty that can make the immune system (IS) go into defense mode, and when this type of visitor enters the body, the immune system may mark it as a threat and try to fight it off. This effect causes what most know as an allergic reaction. While allergies are mostly harmless, they’re still the 6th cause of chronic illnesses in the US.
Most allergens can be found all around us and are hard to avoid. Common ones are:
- Seasonal allergies from pollen
- Dust and dust mites
- Food like milk or peanuts
- Pet dander from cats, dogs, and even bugs
One allergen can affect multiple people in different ways. Also, some may not be affected at all. The situation varies from person to person. Like children who have food allergies that they may outgrow as adults. Additionally, seasonal allergy symptoms may get worse in the winter or early spring.
How Can You Notice Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies?
Each effect can change. While irritation and inflammation are the most common, signs and symptoms depend on the body and allergens. Adding to that, most people will notice their body react to allergies here:
- On the skin, producing bumps, redness, or rashes
- In the gut, causing nausea or diarrhea
- In nasal passages, blocking airways and causing breathing issues
- On the eyes, by making them irritated and watery
- In the head, forming headaches, or causing dizziness
- All over the body, causing aches or swelling of body parts
Importantly, if effects get too painful to deal with, seek the help of your doctor right away. They’ll be able to help you with the steps to take next.
What are the Causes of Seasonal Allergies?
Firstly, when allergens enter the body, they cause it to make chemicals that help the immune system fight them off. Next, these chemicals cause a range of reactions that we call allergies. The most common one released is called histamine, which works to block allergens by swelling the airways and making more mucus, among other things.
Other mild effects that your body can have when affected by histamine can include dry mouth and stuffy nose, while worse effects can be throwing up or hives, for example.
Next, immunoglobin (IgE) is also made by the body to fight allergens. It is also one of the top main causes of allergic reactions. This is because IgE is an antibody made by the immune system. When IgE is let into the body, it can fight better against substances that it sees as a threat. Later, as the IgE fights the allergens, other chemicals will be released that can trigger reactions.
What are the Possible Treatment Options Available for Seasonal Allergies?
Avoiding an allergen is the best treatment option. However, doing this can sometimes be impossible. For instance, in the hay fever season, pollen is in the air and in large parts of the environment outside. When there are a lot of airborne allergens, they can be very hard to avoid and stop any bad effects they cause.
Some treatments can be used to help with symptoms, which is also known as palliative care. While these treatments may not get rid of allergies all the way, they can reduce the level of bad effects the body may feel.
Most help can be found over the counter at any drug store or pharmacy. Although, if you’re going to take any medications, it’s better to talk with a doctor or pharmacist first. Doing this can help you to avoid potential damage or extra side effects, for example.
Allergy Treatment Medications
Here, we’ve listed some of the more common medications used for the treatment of symptoms. Your doctor will be the last say on if this type of treatment is a good idea for you, however.
- Antihistamines: these block the body’s reaction to histamines. When this is blocked, it can help to cure the symptoms they may cause. Adults should use these carefully, while parents should not give them to children unless a doctor says it’s okay.
- Decongestants: These are short-term options that are designed to help you fight against some reactions. For example, there are some that help with a blocked nose, which can be caused by dust, pollen, or pet allergies.
- Leukotriene receptor antagonists, or anti-leukotrienes: Meant for helping to clear airways, these can block effects when no other asthma treatments have worked. In sum, the leukotrienes are released by the body through a process that can cause swelling.
- Steroid sprays: to help clear airways and stop nasal congestion, these types of sprays are applied to the inside of the nose lining.
Are There Any Side Effects of the Medication?
First, we advise you visit a doctor or specialist before taking any kind of medicine.
Next, before you buy any allergy meds you must read the label before you take it. This is helpful in case you’re taking any other drugs because the label will tell you about any potential bad reactions your body can have.
If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, liver or kidney disease, bladder obstruction, glaucoma, or tested positive for an enlarged prostate, you must talk to your doctor before taking medication. Moreover, if you’re pregnant or a nursing mother, you should be very careful of anything you eat. Unfortunately, anything you take can have an effect on the unborn baby.
Some common side effects of allergy medications include:
- Dry mouth
- Mood swings
- Problems when urinating or being unable to urinate
- Loss of focus/ confusion
- Blurry vision
Adding to that, if any medication causes you to feel dizzy or sleepy, the best time to take it is at night. Try to avoid taking during the day, before driving or use of machinery.
Can You Prevent Seasonal Allergies?
Today, it’s impossible to fully stop an allergy from occurring. Instead, you can try to reduce symptoms. Treatments mentioned only help treat allergic reactions, however.
To best avoid allergies, one needs to avoid triggers as much as they can. Conversely, this task can be quite difficult. This is because it’s almost impossible to avoid allergens like pollen in the late summer and spring. Not to mention, dust mites and fungal spores will always be around no matter what time of year it is or how clean the house gets.
Moreover, you can usually avoid pets, but you can’t avoid family or friends who have pets. Similarly, edible things you’re allergic to may exist in foods that you aren’t aware have allergens. When this happens, food labels should be a go-to for the final say.
In any case, if you think you have an allergy, don’t ever self-diagnose. You’ll need to visit a doctor and get tested. A doctor can better review the allergies you may have and identify the best way to avoid negative reactions. Also, talking to a doctor will help you to avoid extra confusion or worry.
Written by: Madiha Ather Hashmi (April 14, 2020)
- Kay AB (2000). “Overview of ‘allergy and allergic diseases: with a view to the future'”. British Medical Bulletin. 56 (4): 843-64.
- Thomsen SF (2014). “Atopic dermatitis: natural history, diagnosis, and treatment”. ISRN Allergy. 24 120-39.
- Rusznak C, Davies RJ (February 1998). “ABC of allergies. Diagnosing allergy“. BMJ. 316 (7132): 686–89.
- Slavin, ed. by Raymond G.; Reisman, Robert E. (1999). Expert guide to allergy and immunology. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians. p. 222.
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Last Updated on September 1, 2021