Seasonal allergies also called allergic rhinitis, pollinosis, or hay fever. Characterized by a series of symptoms that occur systematically at the same time of the year. Seasonal allergies caused by hypersensitivity to certain pollens. Extremely common, estimation of 20 to 25% of people currently suffer from seasonal allergy. Find out the causes and symptoms of seasonal allergies and how treating them.
1. What is a seasonal allergy?
We talk about allergy when a person's body reacts abnormally to contact with certain substances. In the case of seasonal allergy, the reactions are caused by pollen from trees, grasses, or herbaceous plants. Seasonal allergy usually occurs in early spring and last through summer.
The seasonal allergy occurs in:
Early spring (mid-March to the end of June): allergies to certain trees and shrubs such as birches, maples, or poplars.
Summer (late May to mid-October): allergies to grasses such as turf, wheat, corn, etc.
Autumn (end of July to October): allergies to ragweed.
2. What are the causes of seasonal allergy?
Allergies occur when the body overreacts when exposed to certain external substances, pollens from certain plants, in this case.
Even if we do not know until now what causes these allergies, evidence shows now that genetic factors play a large role.
3. What are the symptoms of a seasonal allergy?
Seasonal allergy can have multiple symptoms. The most frequent are:
- A runny nose or on the contrary, the feeling of a stuffy nose (rhinitis),
- Coughing fits
- Tearful eyes
- Tingling of the palate, throat and/or eyes,
- Repeated sneezing.
In more rare cases, you may notice skin manifestations such as eczema, urticaria (itching), or edema (eyelids, lips, etc.)
Serious symptoms such as angioedema or an anaphylactic reaction are extremely rare. However, in patients with asthma, seasonal allergy can trigger an asthma attack and require treatment.
4. Who is affected?
Anyone can develop a seasonal allergy at one time or another in life. It is also possible to suffer from allergies for a few years and then see them go away for no apparent reason. However, it is noticed that the people most at risk of suffering from this rather unpleasant condition are:
- People with some family members who already have allergies (hereditary factor).
- Men. They are more sensitive to it than women.
- The elders of siblings.
- People exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke, especially in early childhood.
- People exposed to high levels of air pollution (pesticides, smoke from fireplaces, pollutants, etc.)
- Physical examination
- Sometimes a skin prick test or an allergen-specific immunoglobulin test
The diagnosis of seasonal allergy is based on the symptoms and the circumstances in which they occurred, that is, whether they only occur during certain seasons. This information can also help the doctor identify the allergen.
Usually, there is no need to test, but you can check the nasal discharge to see if it contains eosinophils (a type of white blood cell produced in large quantities during an allergic reaction).
6. Possible complications
When persistent, but not adequately treated, seasonal allergy can promote the development of:
- Chronic sinusitis
- Asthma attacks
- Recurrent ear infections (especially in children)
7. Treatment of seasonal allergy
Several prescription and non-prescription drugs are available for the treatment of seasonal allergies.
Antihistamines: which block the production of histamine (the substance that causes allergic reactions).
Decongestants: in the form of sprays, they can irritate the mucous membranes, and you should, therefore, use them very sporadically.
Nasal corticosteroids: These are anti-inflammatory drugs available only by prescription when over-the-counter medications are ineffective.
Oral corticosteroids: also on prescription, and for very short periods because of unwanted side effects.
Antidegranulants: in aerosol or drops, they also have an antihistamine action.
Desensitization treatments are also possible, but these take several years, and they are not guaranteed.
Finally, some people resort to alternative medicine techniques: acupuncture, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, relaxation techniques, dietary changes, traditional medicine, etc. No scientific study currently proves this treatment's effectiveness, although several people claim to have seen a marked improvement in the intensity of their symptoms.
8. Preventions: the essential actions
The only effective way to avoid seasonal allergies is to reduce exposure to the allergens involved. For example:
- Limit going outdoors, or at least when pollen is most concentrated in the air (between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m.), and when there is a lot of wind.
- Keep the windows closed.
- Use an air conditioner.
- Wear sunglasses when going out to prevent pollen spores from entering your eyes.
- Avoid drying the laundry outside: it collects pollen.
- Wash your hands and hair often.
- Do not mow the lawn yourself.
- Frequently wash sheets, pillows, blankets.
- Pull up ragweed on your land before its pollination period.
- Check the pollen forecast and avoid going outside during the forecast "peaks."
9. How to distinguish seasonal allergy from the common cold?
Unlike the flu and the common cold, allergic rhinitis is not due to a virus. Although the symptoms can be confused, there are some differences. For example, allergic rhinitis usually causes a discharge of clear nasal secretions rather than a discharge of yellowish nasal secretions, as is the case with a cold.
In addition, the flu and the common cold can present with fever, aches, and pains, while the allergy can lead to excessive sneezing, watery eyes, and itchy eyes.
The flu and the common cold usually go away within a few days, while an allergy lasts as long as exposure to the allergen. A person can suffer from an allergy throughout the year if contact with the allergen is maintained.
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Originally published on Live Positively.