Allergy Season Has Arrived

allergy seasonFirst, your eyes start watering, then the itchiness and finally the sneezing. Your internal clock is better than any calendar in letting you know exactly when spring allergy season has arrived.

Allergies are a condition in which the immune system reacts abnormally to a foreign substance with culprits ranging from peanut butter to dog dander to mold. One of the most common allergies triggered around this time of year is seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, which results from exposure to airborne substances (allergens) such as pollen. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), approximately eight percent of Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis.

For most people, seasonal allergies are more of an uncomfortable inconvenience causing itchy skin, runny noses, sneezing, and/or watery, bloodshot eyes; however, for some, it is life-threatening. Hay fever symptoms tend to flare up in both the spring and the fall while perennial allergic rhinitis symptoms are year-long.

There are two types of rhinitis: allergic and non-allergic. In allergic rhinitis, the immune system mistakenly identifies a typically harmless substance like pollen as an intruder. The immune system responds to the allergen like pollen by releasing histamine and chemical mediators that cause symptoms in the nose, throat, or eyes. Non-allergic rhinitis is not prompted by any one allergen attacking the immune system, but does present similar symptoms of nasal congestion.

If the symptoms, which typically resemble that of a cold, do not lessen in time and/or with medication, a trip to the allergist/immunologist may be in order. In addition to an examination, an allergist will take a thorough health history, review environmental factors and conduct a series of allergy tests, which may include both skin and blood, to determine possible allergy triggers. Depending on geographic location, allergy triggers may vary. Some common seasonal offenders include ragweed or other weed pollens , as well as outdoor molds that grow in heavy vegetation and may increase after rain.

After the allergens have been identified, the allergist can offer guidance on how to reduce exposure to the triggers including recommending limiting outdoor activities or providing a course of treatments if exposed. Some examples of treatment outlined by the AAAAI include:

  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots) – A proven treatment approach that provides long-term relief for those suffering from allergic rhinitis through an injection in the upper arm or the outside of the mid-thigh.
  • Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) allergy tablets – Allergy tablets administer the allergens under the tongue on a daily basis rather than an injection.
  • Medication – Some medications may provide relief including nasal corticosteroid sprays, antihistamine pills, nasal antihistamine sprays or decongestant pills.

The best time to begin administering these medications is before the start of the season and the onset of symptoms.

There are many resources now available for allergy sufferers including websites that can track the pollen count in a particular area. The National Allergy Bureau™ (NAB) provides the most accurate and timely allergy forecasts that highlight the airborne allergen conditions from approximately 80 counting stations throughout the United States, two counting stations in Canada and two counting stations in Argentina. Through an interactive map, the NAB has become a trusted resource for reliable pollen and mold levels that also allows for the creation of a personalized email alert to help keep allergy sufferers informed.

For more information or to find a specialist who treats and manages allergies, please visit www.rwjbh.org/medicalgroup and select find a doctor, where you can search by physician name, specialty or location.