Achoo! Nipping Those Annoying Seasonal Allergies in the Bud

Some people sneeze like crazy. Others get itchy hives or watery eyes. But whatever the reaction, it boils down to one thing: allergies. If this is you, as many as 30% of U.S. adults and 40% of children are in the same boat. Learning why these reactions happen can help you keep things under control and feel better.

Why do Allergic Reactions Happen

An allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to environmental allergens. These substances are harmless to most people but not to all.

During a reaction, your immune system releases antibodies that deliver a message to your cells to stop producing that substance. The cells then send out histamine and other chemicals, such as tryptase, carboxypeptidase A, and proteoglycans, which cause your blood vessels to expand and trigger an allergic reaction.

People with allergies often have elevated levels of certain antibodies in their blood. Each antibody is specific to a particular type of allergen. This explains why someone might be allergic to peanuts but not to eggs. You can come into contact with allergens through the skin, mouth, eyes, nose, or stomach. They can be inhaled, ingested, or injected with medications that a person can be allergic to or via insect bites. Your reaction can cause your sinuses to clog up, make breathing harder, inflame your skin, or cause stomach problems.

What Things Most Often Cause an Attack?

Why do some people have such bad allergies and others do not? The significant difference may be in your genes. A combination of genetics and environmental factors causes allergies.  Anyone can get them at any age. You could develop them as a child, or you might not have any symptoms until you are an adult. Family history is crucial, with a 30–50% chance of offspring developing allergies if one parent has them and a 60–80% chance if both parents do. Environmental factors like repeated exposure to allergens, diet, and pollutants like tobacco smoke and exhaust fumes can also increase the risk of developing allergies.

Common allergens include:

The Symptoms, From Itchy Eyes to Sneezing

Your allergy attacks might range from mild and annoying to more severe and life-threatening. It all depends on how your body reacts and how much allergen enters your system. Symptoms of seasonal and indoor allergies can range from slight to severe. The most common symptoms are:

  • swelling of lips, face, eyes
  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • red, watery, and itchy eyes
  • wheeze or persistent cough
  • breathing problems
  • swelling tongue and tightness of throat
  • headache
  • skin rash
  • abdominal pain (insect allergy)
  • vomiting (insect allergy).

Common Allergies

Allergies are among the country’s most common but overlooked diseases. Did you know that more than 50 million people in the United States have an allergy? They are the sixth-leading cause of long-term illness in the United States and one of the most common health issues affecting children. Whether they are drug, seasonal, or food-related allergies, they can impact our lives in a significant way. 

Here are some common types of allergies:

  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an allergic reaction to environmental allergens such as pollen, dust mites, molds, and animal dander. The best ways to reduce the frequency of hay fever symptoms are to avoid allergic triggers and take appropriate treatments.
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)is achronic, inherited, inflammatory skin condition with symptoms including dry, itchy, and reddened skin. It is not contagious. Treatment options include moisturizers, corticosteroids, pimecrolimus cream, coal tar, ultraviolet radiation therapy (phototherapy), and oral anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Asthma is a severe respiratory condition that causes difficulty breathing and can cause death. Recognize your asthma triggers and manage the condition with medication, relievers, preventers (puffers), exercise, and other therapies.
  • Hives are skin rashes characterized by reddened and raised circular lumps. In most cases, hives are not due to allergies and can be treated with a non-drowsy antihistamine.
  • Food Allergies occur when the body has a chemical reaction to eating a particular food or drink that is usually harmless. Food allergy and food intolerance are commonly confused, as symptoms of food intolerance sometimes resemble those of food allergy. However, food intolerance does not involve the immune system and does not cause severe allergic reactions (known as anaphylaxis).

How can I get Relief?

There are treatment options for mild to moderate allergic reactions. Antihistamines and decongestants can help treat specific symptoms, as can nasal sprays and other over-the-counter medications that might ease your symptoms. Another type of treatment involves tablets that dissolve under your tongue. If you do not get enough relief from avoiding your allergens and using medications, your doctor may want to give you allergy shots to build up your tolerance to the allergens that cause your symptoms.

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