May is here, which means flower buds and blooming trees. While the spring weather is something to look forward to, many are already dealing with allergies, which is why the month of May is National Asthma and Allergies month.
Sneeze attacks, itchy throats, runny noses and itchy red eyes are just a few symptoms that indicate seasonal allergies due to pollen from trees, grass, flowers and plants that make their way into the air.
According to allergy specialist Dr. Roxana Voica at the Topeka Allergy and Asthma Clinic, allergies are the result of the immune system’s mistaken response to a harmless substance such as trees, grass or flowers.
When people who have allergies encounter an allergen, their immune system produces antibodies, said Jenny Yuen, health educator at Lafene Health Center.
“Antibodies, called IgE antibodies that are specific to a certain substance, ragweed or cat dander, for instance,” Yuen said.
People experience reactions to different allergens by inhaling, swallowing or coming into direct contact with them. Seasonal allergies are present during certain seasons when these chemicals are in the air, as opposed to regular allergies that cause allergic reactions all year.
Part of combating allergies is simply avoiding the triggers, said Jim Riley, local pharmacist.
“Stay indoors on dry, windy days,” Riley said. “Try to stay away from mowing the lawn, weed pulling and other gardening chores.”
For outdoor allergies, a good rain can actually help clear the air and reduce allergy symptoms.
For people who believe they are suffering from allergies, it is best not to make guesses.
“It is good to find out what triggers an allergic reaction in your body,” Yuen said. “Speak to an allergist or do a skin test or blood test to find out.”
There are many ways to treat symptoms of allergies, including medication.
“In order for medication to be effective, you need to take it regularly,” Riley said. “There are over-the-counter medications, as well as you can have your doctor prescribe you medication.”
An allergy shot is another option.
“The allergy shot makes your body get used to the allergens you are allergic to,” Yuen said. “It doesn’t cure it, though.”
Asthma is different than allergies, but still constricts the airways. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness or pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in 12, or 25 million people, had asthma as of 2011.
“In regards to asthma, early treatment with medications or inhalers can help,” Yuen said. “As well as knowing yourself so that you can prevent an asthma attack from happening. Remember to talk to your doctor if you have concerns about asthma symptoms and other treatment options.”