Allergies

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (spring allergies or hay fever) is one of the most common allergic conditions in the U.S., affecting approximately 36 million people a year. An estimated 3.8 million days of work and school are missed due to symptoms that include sneezing, watery/itchy eyes, fatigue, headaches, scratchy throat, nasal congestion, and itchiness in ears and nose.

  • Spring allergies are caused by substances that trigger allergies called allergens (pollen). High pollen counts can affect numerous types of allergies from eye (conjunctivitis) to skin reactions (dermatitis) to allergic rhinitis (hay fever). When people who have hay fever inhale pollen, it combines with an allergic antibody called IgE. This causes a release of substances such as histamine which produces symptoms.
  • Pollen that is high enough to be wind-borne causes the problem for most hay fever sufferers.

Plain-looking trees, grasses, and weeds which do not have elaborate flowers produce the types of pollen that cause allergic reactions. People in the eastern U.S. who are sensitive to tree pollen may suffer in early spring when trees such as elm, maple, birch, and poplar are producing pollen. People who are sensitive to pollen produced by grasses may suffer in the late spring/early summer when most grasses are pollinating. About half of all hay fever sufferers are sensitive to grass pollens.

Research from the World Health Organization shows that at least 70 percent of asthmatics also suffer from allergic rhinitis. Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma, affecting 10 million people in the U.S.

  • Allergic asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. Its symptoms are made worse by exposure to an allergen in which an individual is sensitized. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breath, and chest tightness.
  • Factors that trigger allergic asthma are trees, grass, weed pollen, and molds.

Prevention

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology recommends the following:

  • Stay indoors on hot, dry, and windy days.
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
  • If possible, use air conditioning instead of having windows open in both home and car.
  • Stay indoors from 5-10 AM and 2-4 PM when pollen is most abundant.
  • Beware of high mold spore counts after a heavy rain or in the evening.
  • Do not mow the lawn or rake the leaves without a filter mask.
  • Wash your hair daily to remove pollen, especially in evenings before going to bed.
  • If gardening, leave your shoes by the door and wash your clothes in hot water.
  • Use air-purifying devices. For allergic asthma, use a humidifier that is cleaned weekly.

Sources

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, American Lung Association, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.

This information has been brought to you by Shady Grove Adventist Hospital which is located at 9901 Medical Center Drive in Rockville. For more information on health classes, screenings or support groups offered at the hospital go to www.ShadyGroveAdventistHospital.com, or call 1-800-542-5096 to register. To find a local physician, call 1-800-642-0101 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

These Health Tips are for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.