Spring Allergies and Asthma are Back

by Sue Taggart

More the 50 million people in the US are affected by allergies and if you are one of them, you’re probably sniffling and sneezing right now! As the trees start to bloom and the pollen gets airborne, the suffering begins.

What causes spring allergies?

The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen–tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive.

The immune system thinks the pollen is a foreign invader and releases antibodies to fight it off. As the antibodies attack the allergens, chemicals called histamines are released into the blood. Histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes, and other symptoms of allergies.


Why do allergies affect asthma?

Of the nearly 19 million adults in the United States with asthma, about half have asthma that’s related to allergies. But just 20% of adults with asthma have symptoms triggered by just allergies alone. Allergic asthma is an over active immunologic response that occurs because a person’s body makes too much of an immune system component called immunoglobulin E (IgE). People with allergic asthma are bothered by common allergens like animal dander, dust mites, pollen, mold, or cockroaches, and they are often allergic to more than one of these things.

Source: Robert A. Nathan, MD, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and director of the Asthma and Allergy Associates and Research Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Pollen can travel for miles, and the higher the pollen count, the greater the misery. The pollen count measures the amount of allergens in the air in grains per cubic meter. You can find out the daily pollen count in your area by watching your local weather forecast or by visiting the NAB: Pollen & Mold Counts page on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s website.

On a breezy day when the wind is picking up the pollen and blowing it around, allergy symptoms reach their peak. So, while we may not welcome rainy days, allergy sufferers can get some relief with the pollen count going down as the rain washes away the allergens.

Some of the symptoms of spring allergies

  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Runny nose
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Clear mucous
  • Agitation
  • Airborne allergens also can trigger asthma

Some things you can do to help alleviate symptoms

Boost your immune system:

By keeping your immune system in good shape, even if you can’t avoid getting sick, you will be able to deal with the symptoms and recover faster than if you have a weak or compromised immune system.

Clean up your indoor air:

Indoor air can be up to ten times more polluted than outdoor air and this can be a trigger for allergies and asthma. When you are indoors, keep your windows shut and use the air conditioner. You should also keep the car windows closed when driving.

Don’t bring the outside inside:

Pollen will cling to you, your hair and your clothes, so shower when you come home and change into clean clothes that have not been outside.

Get tested:

If you suffer from severe allergies you should get tested to pinpoint the problem. You may need immunotherapy-allergy shots—if your allergies are seriously debilitating or trigger asthma.

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