“Spring is here!” – that time of the year of beautiful blossoms, bright new leaves on trees and warmer days … but, for many people, its arrival marks a season of hay-fever havoc Wifi driver! If you’re sneezing your head off and continually rubbing your eyes, it’s time to take control!
1. What causes allergy and hay-fever symptoms?
- It’s an immune system response.
- When the body is exposed to an allergen (such as pollen, mould, house-dust mite, pet dander etc.) it sees the allergen as something foreign.
- The body responds by producing anti-bodies to the “foreign substance”.
- The immune system becomes sensitised and overreacts – a substance called histamine is released, causing blood vessels to open/dilate leading to congestion.
2. What are some of the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
- Sinus and nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Watery, itchy, red eyes
- Itchy skin, rashes
- Itchy palate/throat
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Coughing, tight chest, wheezing
- Asthma attack, swelling of the eyes, lips, tongue: in the case of a serious allergic reaction.
3. Why is spring the season through which most people suffer?
- During spring, allergy symptoms increase due to high allergen counts mostly due to spring flowers and tree pollen.
- As the days become drier and windier, these allergens become more airborne (compared with rainy days in winter).
- People tend to participate in more outdoor activities (such as hiking, cycling, gardening) as the weather improves.
- Some symptoms can last throughout summer depending on what a person is allergic to.
- The main culprits are: Spring: tree pollen; Autumn: weed pollen; Summer: grass pollen.
- Some people inherit a specific genetic predisposition towards allergies, making them more vulnerable and more sensitive.
4. So, what can be done to cope with seasonal allergies?
Allergies can make one tired, irritable and miserable, so it’s important to try to control them to reduce one’s suffering through this season!
a) Allergy tests:
- Skin prick tests and/or blood tests can show what a person may be allergic to, so that one can try to avoid the specific allergen.
b) Take allergy medication in time:
- Allergy medication (anti-histamine tablets, eye drops and cortisone nasal sprays) are much more effective if started early, preferably about 2 weeks before the season starts.
c) Natural medications:
- Quercetin, stinging nettle and butterbur may possibly be of some value in reducing symptoms.
d) Limit exposure to allergens:
- Keep windows closed, stay indoors at midday and during the afternoon, keep air-conditioners on re-circulate
- Avoid fans that circulate allergens
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses when outdoors,
- Remove outdoor clothing before coming indoors (pollen may be present on clothing)
- Shower and rinse/wash one’s hair after coming indoors
- Keep pets off beds and preferably, outdoors
- Vacuum the house with a good quality vacuum cleaner to limit exposure to house-dust mite
- Consider tiled floors, limit carpets and rugs
- Limit soft-toy exposure and wash them regularly
- Attend to damp problems in the home to reduce mould