Hang in there! Spring allergy season has just started

Part 1

Newsletter_-_Mar16-AllergiesThis month we spoke with Dr. Viktória Kovács, a FirstMed Ears, Nose and Throat specialist, about a topic on everyone’s minds … or maybe just their eyes and noses. Allergies are a seasonal enemy to millions. In this two-part interview you will find answers for many of the questions you may have.

First off, what exactly is an allergy?

Allergic diseases are a number of conditions caused by hypersensitivity in the immune system to an environmental factor which usually goes unnoticed among most people. These diseases include hay fever, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic asthma and anaphylaxis. It is believed that early exposure to potential allergens may actually be helpful in the long run. Treatments usually break down into two factors: avoidance and medication, typically steroids and antihistamines.

I am not living on a farm, so what is hay fever?

Allergic rhinitis, or simply hay fever, is a type of inflammation in the nose when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air. Signs and symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, red, itchy and watery eyes, and swelling around the eyes. The fluid from the nose is usually clear. Once exposed, symptoms can start almost immediately affecting sleep, the ability to work and concentration at school.

 

What are the types of hay fever?

It breaks down into roughly two causal types of allergic rhinitis: seasonal or perennial. Seasonal allergic rhinitis occurs strongest during pollen seasons. It does not usually develop until after six years of age. Allergic rhinitis triggered by the pollens of specific seasonal plants is commonly known as “hay fever” because it is most prevalent during haying season – when they grow, cut and bale hay. However, it is possible to have allergic rhinitis throughout the year. The pollens that cause these reactions vary between individuals and by region. In general, the tiny, hardly visible pollen of wind-pollinated plants is the main culprit. Larger pollen from insect-pollinated plants is much too large to remain airborne and therefore poses no risk. Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs throughout the year. This type of allergic rhinitis is commonly seen in younger children.

What are the typical seasons of allergy?

There are three main allergy seasons in our temperate zone and they are the biggest causes:

  1. End of winter, early spring: pollens from trees – hazelnut, alder, birch, pine, osier
  2. End of spring, beginning of summer: pollens from grasses
  3. Summer and autumn: pollens from weeds (ragweed, fat, rip grass) and fungal (mushroom) spores.

What dictates the overall strength of the symptoms?

What counts first of all is the total amount of allergens in the air. From that starting point it is the time spent in contact, your overall sensitivity, the effectiveness of the anti-allergy therapy and current air pollution.

What is the main reason for my allergies?

Being affected by allergies is largely indicated by genetics. Allergic parents are more likely to have allergic children. In those children, allergies are likely to be more severe than those in children of parents without allergy issues. Of course, environmental factors may take a larger role in the evolution of allergies.

How can doctors make the diagnosis?

Allergy testing may reveal the specific allergens to which an individual has sensitivity. A skin test is the most common method of getting to the heart of your problems. This may include a patch test to determine if a particular substance is causing the rhinitis, but there are also intradermal, scratch or other specialized tests that could be given. Unfortunately patch testing can sometimes show allergies that are not actually causing symptoms or miss allergies that are causing symptoms. The intradermal allergy test is more sensitive than the skin prick test but is more often positive in people that do not have symptoms to that allergen.

Although this is only the end of Part One, if you are anything like me you are already suffering from this year’s seasonal allergies and want help now. You don’t need to wait until Part Two next month to seek some relief for your itchy eyes, stuffy and runny nose, or other symptoms. FirstMed staff are ready to check you for seasonal allergies and provide solutions. Give us a call.