Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. and allergy season is in full swing.
In this week’s Healthy Tip Tuesday, Trinity Hospital Twin City is bringing you the 401 on allergies.
Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to substances that generally do not affect other individuals. These substances, or otherwise known as allergens, can lead to sneezing, coughing, and itching. Additionally, allergic reactions can range from bothersome to life-threatening.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some allergies are seasonal, and they have also been associated with chronic conditions like sinusitis and asthma. Gayle A. Roberts of Trinity Hospital Twin City noted that allergies are present year-round but are more frequent during the spring and fall. More than 50 million American suffer from allergies each year.
Additionally, Roberts indicated weather can affect allergies just the same as the changing seasons. “Symptoms can increase before and after rain falls,” she said. “Before it rains, pollen is released into the air. When pollen gets wet, it swells and bursts into the air. Rain, however, can wash some allergens out of the air. Pollen also increases during windy days, periods of dryness, humidity and in the afternoon.”
WHO IS AT RISK?
Roberts added that Allergists (those specializing in treating allergies) have reported that pollen counts (the measure of pollen in the air) have increased every year, causing more people to face allergy problems. Essentially, anyone may have or develop an allergy – from a baby born with an allergy to cow’s milk, to a child who gets poison ivy, to a senior citizen who develops hives after taking a new medication, according to the CDC.
CAN ALLERGIES BE PREVENTED?
The CDC indicated allergies generally cannot be prevented, but allergic reactions can be. In other words, you’ll still be allergic to whatever it is you’re allergic to, but you can prevent the miserable symptoms. Roberts explained that pollen counts can be found for your area on WebMD and also on your local weather channel or website. “When pollen counts are high, close windows and stay inside if possible,” said Roberts. “Use air conditioning or a fan to circulate air in your home. Be sure your heating and cooling units have a good air filter and remember to clean or replace it often.”
If you are outside, Roberts suggested you wear a hat and sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting into your hair and eyelashes. Pants and long sleeves will also help limit exposure. Also, you can effectively remove any pollen that still finds you by showering every night.
The CDC added that once a person knows they are allergic to a certain substance, they can avoid contact with the allergen. Another method to lessen the severity of your allergy symptoms is to treat them with medication that counteracts reactions or minimizes symptoms. Roberts noted that if your allergy symptoms are severe, you should talk to your healthcare provider about which over-the-counter medications or other treatments could help you.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The CDC stressed the following information.
- The most common allergic diseases include hay fever, asthma, conjunctivitis, hives, eczema, dermatitis, and sinusitis.
- Food allergies are most prevalent in young children and are frequently outgrown.
- Latex allergies are a reaction to the proteins in latex rubber.
- Bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets, and fire ants can cause insect sting allergies.
- Allergies to drugs like penicillin can affect any tissue or organ in the body.
Officials indicated that anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include flush; tingling of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or lips; light-headedness, and chest tightness. If not treated, these can progress into seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, shock, and respiratory distress or even death. Food, insect sting, and drug allergies can all result in anaphylaxis.