Ah-Choo! The ABCs of Seasonal Allergies

Senior Man Suffering from Allergies
Nothing says springtime like daffodils, cherry blossoms, and yes, sneezing fits. You know the drill: itchy, watery eyes; runny nose; sneezing; and congestion—just some of the unpleasant symptoms that can accompany seasonal allergies.

While many substances can cause allergies—basically the body’s immune system reacting like a false alarm to an irritant—some of the most common include various trees, grasses, and pollens plus dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and even feathers.

For many allergy sufferers, it’s not rocket science to figure out when pollen season is in full swing; all it takes is a few steps outside. The timing varies by location and even within one location, it can change from year to year depending on the weather.

Allergy Tests

There are a variety of different types of allergy tests available depending on the suspected allergen. For symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes often a skin test is performed. This procedure involves going to an allergist who will prick the skin (often the inside of the forearm) with a drop of the substance. If the patient is allergic, within 15 minutes or so a small amount of swelling will occur where the allergen was administered. Once the allergy or allergies are determined, changes may be able to be made to avoid the triggers or at least reduce exposure.

Sinusitis

On occasion seasonal allergies can lead to a sinus infection (aka sinusitis). People have four sets of air-filled areas inside their skull around their nose known as sinuses. When these cavities become blocked due to allergies or a cold, air and mucus are trapped, which can lead to pressure and pain. Depending on which area is affected this discomfort can range from the forehead to the teeth and jaws to less often the neck and ears.

Acute sinusitis usually follows a cold or allergies and results from bacteria already in our bodies getting into the sinuses through sniffling or blowing of the nose. Treatment may consist of an antibiotic and/or pain relievers and decongestants to help decrease nasal membrane swelling.

Chronic sinusitis occurs when membranes of the sinuses and nose thicken because they are so inflamed. Experts aren’t sure what causes it, though people with recurring acute sinusitis may be more at risk, as are people with asthma and allergies.

Similarly, more research needs to be done to find successful treatments. Some doctors recommend nasal steroid sprays and/or saltwater washes or nasal sprays. If all else fails, oral steroids are another possibility, but they have serious side effects so are generally used as a last resort. If the problem stems from structural issues, surgery may be needed to enlarge the sinuses’ openings and or correct internal problems.

Prevention is difficult but doctors may suggest using saline sprays to keep the nose moist as well as getting a humidifier. Avoiding irritants like cigarette smoke, chemicals, and anything one might be allergic to is also important.

Ultimately if allergies or sinuses are causing misery, a trip to the doctor is in order.

Source: Kristen Stewart  is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting, and lifestyle topics. For more information, visit Kristen’s website Kristen Stewart.