Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
Most of us welcome spring, but not the allergies that come with it. Allergies can be very debilitating and for some can hinder day-to-day activities. Congestion, drowsiness, and fatigue are often a result of a high pollen count.
An allergy is a reaction of the immune system to certain substances that are considered foreign to our bodies. The biggest springtime allergen is pollen. Trees, flowers, and weeds release tiny grains that send the body into a defensive position.
The immune system sees pollen as a danger and releases antibodies which leads to the release of a chemical called histamines into the blood. A runny nose, itchy eyes, and other symptoms associated with allergies are a result of histamines.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that over 50 million Americans experience allergies every year. Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the country. Over 200,000 people end up in emergency departments annually due to a food allergy.
Anaphylaxis is an acute reaction to an antigen to which the body has become hypersensitive. We often associate bee stings and peanut allergies with anaphylaxis shock. The most common way of treating anaphylaxis is with an epipen, a hypodermic device that administers epinephrine.
Not everyone seeks medical care. If allergies are not severe, many people find ways of self-care including antihistamines which reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching by lowering the amount of histamine in the body. Some use decongestants to shrink the blood vessels in the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling. Others choose a combo option.
Nasal sprays include a decongestant to relieve congestion and clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants without some of the side effects. While many allergy options don’t need a prescription, it is always a good idea to speak to your doctor to make sure you are making the correct choice.
If you have very severe allergies, your doctor may recommend you see an allergist. An allergist, also referred to as an immunologist, is a physician specially trained to diagnose, treat and manage allergies, asthma and immunologic disorders including primary immunodeficiency disorders.
Effectively controlling allergies requires planning and patience. The allergist will develop a treatment plan for the individual condition. A visit may include an allergy test, preventative education, medications, allergy shots and immunotherapy. Immunotherapy gives incremental doses of the allergen until the body can handle it.
Natural remedies have varying degrees of success. Some feel butterbur root is effective at relieving nasal symptoms and does not cause drowsiness. Quercetin, a nutrient found in black tea, onions, and apples, has been shown to block the release of histamines. Acupuncture has been effective for some in relieving acute allergic symptoms. Apple cider vinegar, probiotics and essential oils are also ways some find allergy relief.
There are hundreds of ordinary substances that can trigger an allergy. Using common sense during allergy season combined with treatment that works for you can help reduce symptoms in the long run.
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