You know that feeling. Your nose begins to twitch and before you know it you are sneezing uncontrollably.
Often referred to as hay fever, it really has nothing to do with hay! It is pollen that causes this seasonal reaction, known as seasonal rhinitis.
When the words of the song say “Spring is in the air”, they really mean it.
Pollen allergy tends to be due to air borne pollen. Moulds in outdoor air can also contribute to seasonal allergies. So when those August winds blow they are spreading pollen around.
At this time of year spring allergies are rampant causing many people to sneeze, have runny noses and red eyes. Trees are generally the first to pollinate, in late winter and spring, although some varieties can pollinate later in the season, depending on the region. Trees tend to be followed by the pollination of various grasses in late spring and summer. Weeds can pollinate at different times of the growing season
The frequency of allergic disease has approximately doubled in the last 25 years. In Australia and New Zealand, around:
- 4 in 10 people will develop allergies at some time during life
- 1 in 5 will develop atopic dermatitis
- 1 in 6 will have an attack of hives (urticaria)
- 1 in 4 children, 1 in 7 teenagers, and 1 in 10 adults have asthma
- 8 in 10 asthma sufferers will have positive allergy tests
- 1 in 20 will develop a food allergy (usually transient)
- 1 in 100 will have a life-threatening allergy known as anaphylaxis
The classic allergic reaction starts when a foreign substance such as pollen, dust, animal dandruff or food enters the body. If you are sensitive to that substance, then your body produces a specific type of antibody known as IgE. This IgE attaches to the invading substance and then to specialised immune cells known as “mast cells” and “basophils”. These mast cells then release histamine, which causes blood vessels to leak and the airways to contract.
These effects of histamine are designed to be helpful. Yet in oversensitive individuals you get unpleasant symptoms that will vary depending on the location of the mast cell. In the nasal passages (as in hayfever), the fluid moving out of the blood vessels causes congestion and sneezing to try and remove the excess mucus.
Atopy is the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases. People with atopy are said to be atopic. When atopic people are exposed to allergens they can develop an immune reaction that leads to allergic inflammation (redness and swelling).
This can then cause symptoms in the:
• nose and/or eyes – allergic rhinitis/conjunctivitis (hay fever)
• skin – eczema, hives
• lungs – asthma
Most people with asthma are atopic. If you are atopic, allergens may be important trigger factors that can worsen your asthma.
|So what can you do to reduce the impact of spring allergies?
|Use over-the-counter antihistamines for relief. For some people, these drugs are very effective at reducing the classic symptoms of seasonal allergies, including sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and, occasionally, scratchy throat. Some of the older-generation antihistamines, such as Polaramine, can cause sleepiness and the impairment of thinking and driving, which people often don't sense. More recent formulations, in most people, cause no drowsiness (Claratyne, for example) or less drowsiness (Zyrtec). These perform very well for many people. Your Pharmacist will be able to advise you on the most suitable medication for you.
|Use Saline sprays and washes for allergic rhinitis and for colds. They can be used by themselves or in combination with other nasal sprays. They enhance the effectiveness of medicated hayfever sprays. They clear and soothe dry nasal passages. Nasal sprays wash away germs and pollens. Naturally thins mucus and stimulates the nose’s natural defence mechanism. They are safe to use even during pregnancy. (see Product View for more details)
Keep your home's doors and windows closed. You can't completely seal off your home from the outside, but keeping doors and windows closed can help prevent pollens and outdoor moulds from entering. When the weather turns nice in the spring and you're tempted to open windows to let in "fresh" air, it may be better to keep them closed and turn on your air conditioner.
Limit outdoor activity, particularly in the morning. Avoid being outdoors especially to exercise when pollen counts are high, or on windy days when pollen and molds are being blown about. In general, pollen counts are highest in the morning, usually from about 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.
When traveling by car, keep the windows up. Closing your car windows helps keep out pollens, dust and mold.
Take a shower and change clothes. Pollen can collect on clothes and in your hair. So when you've been outside for any significant amount of time, shower and change into fresh clothes as soon as you get home.
When you've followed these steps and you're still suffering, you may need prescription medication.
There are a variety of prescription medications that can help reduce or block seasonal allergy symptoms. These include other oral antihistamines; the drug Singulair; and several classes of nasal sprays. Nasal sprays tend to be the most effective at relieving symptoms by helping reduce inflammation and counteracting the allergic response.
Our friendly staff are able to assist you with any information on medications and equipment to help manage your allergies and asthma. If you would like a demonstration of devices that can assist in your medication delivery feel free to ask.
It is important that you follow an Asthma Management Plan. For help with this, please speak to us. Find out more about asthma management.
To find out more about how your Pharmacist can help you manage your asthma and allergies speak to our friendly staff or Contact Us