It’s spring! For most of us this season signals a change in weather that allows us to take more of our recreational activities outside. However, for some others it signals the start of hay fever season and the emergence of other seasonal allergies. In this article, we want to discuss some of the common reasons that seasonal allergies occur and some simple remedies to cope with them.
This is probably the most common type of seasonal allergy. As the life cycle of plants starts over in the spring, pollen will be released and carried through the spring air. When this pollen is inhaled it causes the body’s immune system to increase production of histamine. Histamine is a compound released by cells that causes contraction of smooth muscle and dilation of capillaries which leads to coughing, sneezing and tearing up.
How To Deal With Hay Fever?
- Try to keep your windows and doors closed to avoid pollen blowing indoors. Use AC when indoors if possible and clean air filters regularly.
- Use OTC (over the counter) decongestants and antihistamine medications.
- Limit your time outdoors. If you must work outside, especially in garden, wear a mask.
- Take a shower after spending time outdoors to wash off any pollen or dust mites that might have accumulated on your skin.
- Check out our detailed tips for dealing with allergies from our blog last year.
During spring, lots of insects coming out of hibernation are searching for food. They’ll often come looking for nutrition in your home and garden. For people allergic to insect bites and stings, this season could be a bit more dangerous as these hungry insects charge around on their search for food. The two most common types of springtime insects that cause allergic reactions are stinging and biting insects. Bees, wasps, hornets, yellow-jackets and fire ants are the most common stinging insects that cause an allergic reaction, while mosquitoes, kissing bugs, bedbugs, fleas and certain flies are the most common biting insects known to cause an allergic reaction. There is also another, less known “household category” that includes cockroaches and dust mites. These types of insects may cause sneezing, coughing, runny/stuffy nose, itchy eyes, nose, mouth or throat.
Most people aren’t actually allergic to insect bites or stings. For these people, getting stung or bitten may cause pain, redness, itching and minor swelling in the area around the bite or sting. This reaction usually lasts a few hours or days and irritation in the affected area can be treated with OTC skin creams.
However, some people have a serious allergic reaction to stinging or biting insects, known as anaphylaxis. This type of reaction requires serious and immediate medical attention.
Signs of anaphylaxis includes:
- Skin rashes, itching or hives
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- Shortness of breath, trouble breathing or wheezing (whistling sound during breathing)
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Stomach pain, vomiting, bloating or diarrhea
Dealing with insect allergies isn’t as easy as dealing with hay fever. For persons who experience anaphylaxis, a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline) should be immediately injected. However, this is a drug that requires a prescription. While you should have epinephrine on standby, some extra precautions persons with anaphylaxis can take include: avoid walking barefoot outside, avoid sweet-smelling perfumes, hair sprays, colognes and deodorants, avoid drinking from open tins/cans, avoid wearing bright colored clothing.
Autoimmune disease, similar to allergies, is caused by the body attacking its own cells. This usually occurs when the body flags harmless substances such as environmental allergies (e.g. dust, mould, pollens) or common foods as dangerous. While spring gets the rap for causing allergies to flare up, it can also cause autoimmune disease flare ups. Many autoimmune diseases are affected by foods we eat and stress we encounter. This season, take care to keep your stress levels low and if you’re invited to any parties or outdoor activities, prepare your own snacks to avoid a diet-related flare up.
Pollen and dust have the unfortunate reputation as the main cause of seasonal allergies but the food you’re eating might also be to blame. Have you ever heard of food-pollen allergy syndrome, or oral allergy syndrome? Well it’s a lot more common than you think. People with hay fever may also experience allergic symptoms when consuming certain foods. Evidence suggests that in these cases, the immune system mistakes a plant protein in the fruit, vegetable, nut or seed for pollen, and this irritant triggers what allergy specialists call a cross-reaction.
Symptoms of food-pollen allergy syndrome include itchy mouth, scratchy throat, or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat. The easiest way to deal with this syndrome is to ensure all foods are cooked before consumption. If a food cannot be cooked, then it might be best to avoid it if it causes any of the above symptoms.
Spring doesn’t have to leave you in dread. With the right treatment and by taking the necessary precautions, you can keep your spring allergies under control and still enjoy this season. Come down to Walker’s Drug Store to see what products and medication we might have to make your spring season more enjoyable. Look out for our next newsletter where we’ll be discussing sunscreen and sun exposure as we get closer to summer.