Seasonal (spring) allergy – why does it happen and what can we do about it?

Dear readers: The beginning of spring marks the onset of a lot of misery for millions of people all over the world who suffer from seasonal (spring) allergies mostly manifested as something medically called ‘seasonal allergic rhinitis’ or more commonly, hay fever – the daily (and sometimes nightly too) rituals of sniffling, hacking, sneezing and swearing may begin.

The major trigger of these allergies is pollen – tiny airborne grains released by trees, weeds, grass, flowers and other plants as part of their reproductive cycle.

Happy sneezing
Happy sneezing

When pollen lands into the noses of allergic people, it sends their immune system into an overdrive.

The mechanism

What immune system normally does when it gets into contact with an invader is called an inflammatory reaction – in a nutshell, it produces antibodies which set off the excretion of histamines into the blood and these are among the responsible for inflammation: the blood rushes in bringing the white blood cells, blood vessels dilate, the area swells up, becomes red, congested, warm etc.
All this helps the body block off, isolate and destroy bacteria, viruses, toxins and other disease-causing agents.

Inflammatory reaction may not always be beneficial to us and in case of pollen, the immune system wrongly sees it as an invader and reacts in the same way it would as if it were a real threat. It produces antibodies which attack pollen and this releases histamine into the blood and it creates symptoms like runny and congested nose, sneezing, itchy, watery, red eyes, coughing and it can get even worse with wheezing and difficulty breathing at which time an immediate medical assistance should be requested!

What to do?

When pollen starts flying through the air, it can travel for miles and miles. The amount of pollen grains per cubic meter of air is called the pollen count and it is directly related to the severity of symptoms.
Typically, this count is peaking in the morning so this would be the time to stay indoors with closed windows.

You can also try some OTC medication for allergies that contain antihistamines and decongestants; you can use nasal sprays and eye drops or speak to your doctor if you think you require additional prescription drugs that are available. Your doctor can tell you what the right combination is for you as symptoms vary.

Other (additional) things you can do:

  • Always wash your hands as pollen can stick to them.
  • Vacuum daily and try to use a surgical mask while doing so as vacuuming can kick some of the pollen and other allergens up in the air.
  • Use air filters and humidifiers for your home and clean them regularly.
  • Keep your doors and windows closed if possible.

The bottom line is: you’ll have to ride it out – just like any other storm.

Yours in health,

Dr. Mo

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