Every year from the time she was two until her sophomore year of college, sinus infections and bronchitis cloaked Rachel Janose’s life. “I had to miss a lot of school, work and social events because I was constantly sick,” Janose, Kansas City, Mo. senior, says.
A doctor finally narrowed down Janose’s problem after almost 20 years of misdiagnosis: she suffered from seasonal allergies.
Janose isn’t alone. Marc Meth, an allergist at Century City Allergy in Los Angeles, says 30 to 40 percent of the population suffer from seasonal allergies, and more and more people join that category each year, for reasons Meth says are unknown.
Sneeze, Wheeze and Itch
For allergy sufferers, spring and fall can bring sneezing, nasal congestion and a runny nose, says Neeta Ogden, an allergist at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J. Itchy, watery eyes often join in the party, making eyes red and puffy. Ogden says people often complain of a sore or scratchy throat from post-nasal drip.
Sometimes the fun doesn’t stop there, either. Ogden says people can often develop sinusitis and ear infections from ongoing allergies. People with asthma can face even bigger problems during allergy season. Asthmatics can experience shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing on top of the other symptoms.
Medication isn’t the only preventative measure allergy sufferers can take to escape hay fever.
Neeta Ogdenan, an allergist at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J., says the following precautions can help make the season change even more enjoyable:
Avoid going outside during peak pollen times, which are often early morning and early evening.
Find a website, such as www.pollen.com, that will email you the weekly pollen count. then you will know what days to expect high pollen and more severe symptoms.
When you come inside from being outdoors, change your clothes and leave your shoes at the door. that way, you don’t track pollen throughout the house.
Wash your hair before going to bed.
Close all windows in your home.
Use air conditioning when it gets hot, and make sure your filters are clean. In the car, keep the vents pointed away from you.
If you have pets, wash them often so they don’t track pollen from outdoors.
Wheat, Grass and Trees
Kansas isn’t the greatest place for those seeking to escape seasonal allergies. Meth of Century City Allergy says the most common villains individuals face are wheat pollen, trees and grass pollen. That’s why allergies flare up most often in the spring and the fall — those are the times when trees and grasses are pollinating. Outdoor mold can also cause symptoms as well.
Once these allergens pass through the skin or the mucosa of the nose, eyes or lungs, the body goes into defense mode. Meth says once those antibodies are bound to an allergen, the body releases all sorts of chemical mediators that contribute to allergies — the most common being histamines — which lead to those irritating symptoms.
Luckily, for most people allergies aren’t that serious of a condition. While these symptoms can be annoying, Meth says people generally aren’t keeling over from allergies. However, Ogden of Englewood Hospital says long-term sufferers can experience some debilitating symptoms that can interfere with focusing at school or work.
Mom, Dad and Me
If you suffer from allergies, odds are your parents are to blame. Meth of Century City Allergy says if someone’s parents have allergies, he or she is likely to develop them as well. However, the type of allergy rarely matches up. so if your mom is allergic to grass pollen, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be, too. it just means that you’re much more likely to develop some type of allergy during your lifetime.
Meth says genetics don’t account for all seasonal allergies. He says environmental factors could be partly to blame as well, but that side of the equation isn’t understood as well.
Prevent, Medicate and Breathe
Individuals can fight back against those pesky seasonal allergies. A good idea for people who know they have seasonal allergies is to start on medication two to three weeks before allergy season, because some allergy medicine takes time to reach peak efficacy, says Ogden of Englewood Hospital. “If you have the medications on board, your body won’t be surprised when the pollen hits, and you can avoid the vicious cycle of allergy symptoms, which can be hard to get under control once in full effect.”
For those who aren’t sure whether or not they have seasonal allergies or just a head cold, Ogden suggests giving some of the over-the-counter antihistamines a try. Odds are, if they help symptoms, seasonal allergies are the proper diagnosis. However, if they don’t work, Ogden suggests possibly scheduling an appointment with an allergist.
Allergists can use two methods to see if a patient has seasonal allergies. The first method is a skin allergy test, where many different allergens prick the skin. then the allergist looks to see if the skin around a certain allergen develops small hives. these tests often get a bad rep, because needles used to be involved in the pricking. However, some allergists, like Meth, have switched to small, plastic tongs, which make the test more comfortable. if the skin allergy test still sounds unappealing, Meth says a blood test can help determine a patient’s allergies as well.
Bottom line: Seasonal allergies are no fun, but they are treatable. if you think you’ve caught “hay fever,” visit your doctor so you can enjoy the spring weather and welcome back the sun, and not stay cooped up indoors.
<a href="http://www.kansan.com/news/2011/mar/31/Health-Department-Allergies-Seasons/?jayplaytag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.kansan.com/news/2011/mar/31/Health-Department-Allergies-Seasons/?jayplayThu, 31 Mar 2011 05:04:32 GMT 00:00″>Seasonal Allergies 101