April 10, 2013 at 6:23 AM
By Norwood News
An estimated 35 million Americans suffer from allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. More commonly called hay fever, seasonal allergic irritation results in symptoms that include itchy eyes, nose and throat, sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, tearing or dark circles under the eyes.
“In the early spring, trees are the first to start producing pollen as soon as they start budding, and it creates major problems for people with allergies,” said David Rosenstreich, M.D., director of the allergy and immunology division at Montefiore Medical Center. “The symptoms people experience often resemble a common cold, but, if it happens every year at this time, it’s most likely allergies.”
An allergy symptom is the result of the immune system overreacting. It mistakes the pollen for a foreign invader and attacks it, which leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. The histamine travels through the blood and latches onto histamine receptors on other cells, causing them to swell. This inflammation causes many familiar allergy symptoms.
People with asthma are especially affected by allergies and may have asthma attacks, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Asthma is often triggered by allergies; however most people with allergies do not develop asthma.
Over-the-counter medications often make people experiencing allergies feel better, but if they experience difficulty breathing or the symptoms become more severe, they should seek medical attention. Antihistamine drugs work by blocking the histamine from affecting these cells. Additionally, a physician can prescribe more potent medications.
In addition to medications, lifestyle changes also can help relieve symptoms. Several to consider include:
• Limiting outdoor activities during days with high pollen counts.
• Keeping windows closed (at home or in the car) to keep pollens out.
• Installing your air conditioners early, since they’re ideal for filtering the outside air that comes into your home.
• Washing your hair after coming indoors.
• Refraining from mowing lawns or raking leaves because this stirs up pollen and molds.
• Avoiding hanging sheets or clothes outside to dry.
Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the April 4-17 print edition of the Norwood News.