Spring Is In The Air!

March 9, 2017, Carrie Hornett, Advertising Manager

Warmer weather is approaching, and with it comes a new growing season for trees and grass; flowers start to bloom, and pollen hits the air. Although the warmth is a welcome change, the shift from spring to summer brings misery to an estimated 50 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies.

Allergies are on the rise, affecting as many as 30 % of adults and 40 % of children. Several theories have been postulated to explain the rising prevalence, from changes in our diet (increasing consumption of junk food) and the way food is grown (GMOs and pesticides) to exposure to chemicals in the environment and our ultra-hygienic way of living.

Although researchers continue to explore the underlying cause of allergies, we can explain what is happening in the body of those afflicted. Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts or reacts inappropriately upon exposure to an otherwise harmless substance—the allergen. For those with seasonal allergies, the triggering substances are trees, grass, or flower pollen. The immune system recognizes these substances as foreign and responds by producing antibodies, which trigger the release of inflammatory chemicals, including histamine, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins. Histamine is responsible for the notorious allergy symptoms of itchy eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing; leukotrienes cause excess mucus production, and prostaglandins trigger inflammation.

Allergies and colds share some common symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and sinus pain and pressure. So how do you tell the difference? A cold usually lasts seven to 10 days, whereas allergy symptoms persist much longer—weeks to months. Sneezing associated with allergies often occurs in rapid and multiple sequences; those with a cold are more likely to experience sporadic sneezing. Mucus secretions are clear or runny with allergies, but often yellow or greenish with a cold. In addition, allergies often cause itchy eyes, nose, and mouth or throat.

Medical Management

There are several over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help manage allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are used to treat itching, runny nose, and sneezing. Older antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are effective, but they cause substantial drowsiness and need to be taken several times throughout the day (about every six hours). Newer products such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) and loratadine (Claritin) cause less drowsiness and are taken once daily; however, they may still cause side effects such as dry eyes, mouth, and nose. Antihistamine eye drops, such as Visine, are commonly used to relieve the notorious red allergy eyes—but they really just mask the problem and can also cause dry eyes and irritation.

Decongestants relieve sinus congestion, or that feeling of fullness and pressure. These products are effective, but their side effects can include insomnia, racing heart, increased blood pressure, and irritability. Those with high blood pressure or glaucoma should avoid these products. Nasal sprays containing decongestants work quickly and are less likely to cause racing heart or high blood pressure, but these products can cause rebound congestion if used for longer than three days.

Natural Relief

Considering all of the side effects associated with allergy medications, it is not surprising that natural methods for dealing with allergies have recently become very popular. In fact, many people find that they can reduce or even eliminate their reliance on allergy medication by a simple addition in their environment.

Air purifiers are devices that are designed to clean the air in your house and improve the quality of air that you and your family breathe. Air purifiers use filters to rid the air of pollutants and allergens, like pollen, mold and pet dander. It will also clean the air from other harmful particles, odors and irritants, such as cigarette smoke. Air purifiers that have met the strict regulations and have attained HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) certification will filter out both big and small particles; this is especially important for people who suffer from asthma, allergies or other sensitivities to air pollutants.

HEPA air purifiers do an excellent job of capturing the pollens in your home and office. They will capture over 99.9% of the pollens that pass through them. Placing an air purifier in your bedroom, family room, and office will allow most people to be in a pollen-free room for the vast majority of the time that they spend indoors. 

Citations:

HowStuffWorks Contributors, Health and Indoor Allergies, April 2011. http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/allergies/indoor-allergies/air-purifier-help-allergies.htm

AllergyAsthmaTechnology, Pollen Relief. http://www.allergyasthmatech.com/PollenRelief.asp

Alternative Medicine, Sherry Torkos, Seasonal Allergies Ditch Your OTCs for Natural Relief. http://alternativemedicine.com/seasonal-allergies-ditch-your-otcs-for-natural-relief/