WHAT IS AN ALLERGY?
Allergies come in many forms, affecting all sorts of people – about one in every five people suffers from a seasonal or environmental allergy. While causes and reactions vary greatly case to case, allergies involve the activation of immune responses by certain triggers. These immune responses are felt as symptoms of allergy, ranging in severity from mildly irritating to potentially life-threatening.
Allergic responses are triggered by allergens, which are ambient small particles and residues found in the environment. Allergens can be just as diverse as the terrible symptoms they cause, and change by the season or environment you are in. Thankfully, there are many effective options for treating allergy and allergy symptoms.
MANAGING YOUR ALLERGY
When your allergies go untreated, your body can feel like a battleground—and it’s not far from the truth. Allergies turn your body’s defenses against itself, creating an internal struggle that can feel like it will never end. The body’s main line of defense in the face of infection and disease, the immune system, is largely responsible for your itchy, achy, ugly allergy symptoms. These unpleasant responses normally help your body kill off invasive viruses and bacterial infections, but when you suffer from an allergy, these responses can activate and even overreact in the absence of a true threat, causing chronic inflammation and all sorts of symptoms that drag you down.
Understanding the causes of your allergies and how you react to them is the first and most important step when learning to manage your allergy. Because every person responds differently to allergens, it is important to be tested by a medical professional to determine the specific causes of your allergy symptoms as well as the severity of your reactions to them. Testing for allergies is simple and can be done by appointment at our office. Knowing which allergens cause your reactions allows you to stay a step ahead of your symptoms, and maybe avoid them altogether.
There are three general approaches to managing allergies: controlling the environment, controlling the reaction with medication, and changing the immune response with allergy shots. Some severe allergies require additional precautions, like having an EpiPen with you in case of exposure to your allergen. Dr. Waterman and your allergy specialist will work with you to determine what course of action is most appropriate to manage your allergy.
Allergens are all around us, indoors and outdoors, at work and at home. Understanding the environmental conditions that make your symptoms worse can help you minimize your discomfort. Eliminating allergens from the spaces where you live and work can make a big difference in your symptoms. Maintaining an allergen-free environment can be difficult and time-consuming, but a few minutes every day will help you fight your allergies and avoid a severe reaction.
Eliminating—or at least reducing—the allergens from your environment can be a very effective means for controlling allergies. Keeping the areas where you work, relax, and exercise free of allergens like dust and mold can seem like an impossible task, especially when cleaning brings out the worst of your symptoms. In the long-run, a little housekeeping every day will provide a reduction in the overall severity of your allergic response, not to mention the peace and satisfaction a clean space can foster. Whether they admit it or not, your co-workers, friends and family will appreciate it too.
Pollens and other outdoor allergies are more difficult to control completely, but you can prepare accordingly by learning what time of the year your allergens are most prevalent and by modifying your medications to accommodate these fluctuations when necessary. Many weather apps report the air quality and pollen count for regions across the U.S.A. and these tools can be valuable when planning to spend time outdoors.
If you believe your symptoms may be allergy-related, or if your current allergy treatment isn’t doing enough to fight your symptoms, contact our office today to arrange your allergy evaluation.
The American Association of Otolaryngologists provides the following tips for reducing the exposure to common allergens:
- Wear a dust mask when mowing grass or cleaning house (most drugstores sell them).
- Change your air filters regularly in heating and air conditioning systems and vacuum cleaners and/or install an air purifier. Consider a HEPA filter in your bedroom or other rooms where you spend a lot of time.
- Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollen seasons.
- Rid your home of sources of mold and mildew.
- If you have a pet, take additional measures to reduce dirt, dander, and hair they may create.
- Remove carpet from bedrooms.
- Use over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants as needed and as tolerated. However, you should talk to your ENT doctor to make sure they are safe. Some patients do better with prescription medications when over the counter medications are not controlling their symptoms well.
- Discuss hay fever and allergy symptoms with a physician when experiencing an allergic reaction.
EXTERNAL LINKS TO RESOURCES
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Provides a great break-down of symptoms and lifestyle tips.