Seasonal allergy symptoms can range from annoying to downright debilitating. What is it about spring allergies that take such a toll on our bodies when they hit? What can we do to keep them from bringing our lives to a runny-nosed itchy-eyed standstill?
Remedies for this annual allergy epidemic range from antihistamine medications like Loratadine and Benadryl, to holistic approaches like Neti pots and switching to a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. Some people go so far as using avoidance techniques and simply stay away from the great outdoors during the allergy season.
South Source asks John Sheffield, a Physician Assistant Studies instructor at South University — Savannah, what happens in our bodies that create allergic reactions, and what we need to do to make it through the spring allergy season.
South Source: What is the science behind spring allergies? What’s really happening in the body?
John Sheffield: Allergy is characterized by an overreaction of the human immune system to a foreign protein substance (allergen) that is eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected, or touched. This immune overreaction can result in symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and scratchy throat.
SS: Why do seasonal allergy symptoms hit different people in different ways?
JS: Allergens differ from region to region. When I lived in Upstate New York it was predominately trees. In Oklahoma, it was dust. Individuals vary in the severity of their response to allergens — some severe and debilitating, others, mild and annoying.
Individuals vary in the severity of their response to allergens — some severe and debilitating, others, mild and annoying.
SS: Roughly how many people suffer from spring allergy symptoms each year?
JS: Approximately 40 million Americans suffer with seasonal allergies.
SS: Are allergy symptoms different from season to season? If so, how are spring allergies unique?
JS: Spring tends to be unique as, in most places, it is when a wide variety of plants begin to pollinate. It is these pollens that become the allergens.
SS: What can you do to avoid spring allergies if you are prone to them?
JS: Avoidance is difficult for most patients as we all have to spend some portion of our time outdoors. Limiting that time taking medication that controls allergic response is really the only was to minimize the body’s response.
SS: What is the best way to stop an allergy attack quickly?
JS: While most allergic responses are not particularly sudden in their onset, some can be rapid. Patients who have asthma or other lung diseases can be adversely affected with the onset of an allergic response. These patients should use rapid acting, inhaled medications to relieve their allergy symptoms. For these patients, it is imperative that they see their healthcare provider to get medication that lessens the body’s response to allergens.
SS: How has the treatment of spring allergies changed in the medical community in the past 20 years?
JS: Several treatment modalities have become available. Among these are newer antihistamine medications that are better tolerated by patients. Intranasal corticosteroids are safe, powerful sprays that relieve the inflammation associated with seasonal allergies. These medications used in combination under the direction of a health care provider can minimize the suffering throughout the spring.
SS: Is it possible to be cured of an allergy, and if so, how?
JS: Allergies can’t be cured but with consistent use of allergy medications, the symptoms can be controlled in most patients.
The information in this article is provided for general information purposes and may not be relied on as a substitute for actual professional medical advice, care or treatment. You are encouraged to consult with your physician or healthcare provider to obtain professional medical advice.
Author: Brendan Purves