Soon the grounds will be green as flowers sprout, lawns are reborn, and trees awaken from their slumber, and you’ll itch, sneeze, and scratch–the beginning of allergy season. The symptoms of allergies can interrupt our lives, driving us indoors, into a strictly cleaned and primmed environment devoid of the triggers that clog our sinuses and puff our eyes.
Allergies are an extreme inflammatory response of our immune system to mostly harmless triggers. The reaction is inherited, but the allergens are not, so if you are allergic to one thing you are more likely to be allergic to others. The most effective thing you can do is to avoid your triggers, but to avoid them you have to know what they are.
Symptoms of Allergies vary from person to person, but generally:
- Food Allergies can be very dangerous as swallowing something gives you intense exposure to it. Reactions can include bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains. If you know you are allergic to something (common food allergies are peanuts and tree nuts, dairy, seafood, eggs, wheat, and soy), do not ingest it and avoid foods that may be contaminated with it. Probiotics, strengthen your gastrointestinal immune system and may help relieve symptoms of food allergies.
- Airborne Allergies, caused by dust mites, mold spores, animal dander, grass, ragweed, and trees, can be hard to avoid. Reactions can include itchy eyes, runny nose and sinus congestion, sneezing, coughing and constricted airways, allergy induced asthma, and possibly skin reactions such as hives, eczema, and flaking or peeling.
- If you have pet allergies, keep animals out of doors and off of furniture you commonly use (couch, bed). Further, clean areas where pets sleep often. Try washing your dog with shampoo and conditioner that does not dry the skin (avoid sulfates and look for toxin free products), as dry skin may flake and cause more dander.
- Limit and frequently clean fabrics in your home such as drapes, rugs, comforters, stuffed toys, etc. Choosing less dense fabrics that are less likely to catch dust and machine washable fabrics can also help. Consider getting a cover for your mattress and pillows. Change your clothing if you are exposed to airborne allergens.
- Avoid wet places/climates to avoid mold, and if you suspect mold growth use a water-bleach solution to wipe the area (or get someone who won’t have an allergic reaction to do it).
- To treat mild sinus problems or hayfever, rinsing your sinus cavities can help ease the problem. For a how-to, see here.
- Allergies from Medicines such as antibiotics can cause reactions all over your body and may compound the symptoms of whatever ailment you where trying to treat. If you have a strong reaction to any medication, see your doctor.
- An Allergic Reaction from an Insect Bite can be particularly severe, ranging from hives, eczema, skin flaking and peeling, to airway constriction. Keep your skin covered when outdoors if you are extremely allergic and do your best to avoid areas where you’re more likely to get stung. Mild relief can come from rubbing aloe on the wound.
- Other allergens include chemicals, such as those found in some cosmetics and laundry detergents (try all natural or hypoallergenic formulas), latex, and some metals and jewelery. Most of these are things that come in contact with the skin and may cause itching or rash.
- If you have severe allergies see your doctor after exposure. Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction characterized by difficulty breathing and swallowing, swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or other bodily parts (such as the sting site), dizziness and possibly loss of conciousness, can be delayed for a couple of hours (as a secondary step by your body in response to the allergen) rather than occurring immediately.
If you think you have allergies, a doctor can perform a test to help determine what you’re allergic to. It can be useful to you, though, to keep track of where, when, and how you react to different allergens, so that you can determine what is right for you: whether it’s easy to avoid, whether it’s severe enough to warrant treatment (note that there is concern about the safety of some medications containing long-acting beta-agonists, as they have shown to worsen allergic reactions over time and are only recommended for already severe cases of allergies), or whether you want to try alternative treatments.
Some all natural treatments are said to be very effective, such as seeing an acupuncturist, but this can require several treatments and get pricey if you have a lot of allergies.
Other treatments include herbs–but be wary. I’ve seen some sites list herbs, without noting quantities, preparation or use, and some herbs, such as Belladonna, are highly toxic. Avoid the do-it-yourself route and seek a professional.
If you have severe allergies or are prone to allergy induced asthma, do not quit your doctors recommendations and use your best judgement regarding the severity of your symptoms and when to see a doctor.