Pollen. How can such tiny particles cause so much discomfort for so many people? Allergenic pollen-producers include grasses, trees and weeds. Dependant upon where you live and your specific allergies. this airborne villain may strike only in the summer or fall, or perhaps all year round. You may experience the typical symptoms: runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. If you are involved in outdoor activities such as sports, gardening or hiking, you may even experience skin irritation due to contact with pollinating plants. At times your reactions could be severe enough to keep you indoors and restrict you from activities you enjoy.
Thanks to new research, the treatment for pollen allergy sufferers has improved dramatically. From more accurate testing to advanced treatment techniques, practitioners are better able to identify and classify sensitivities, enabling safer and more aggressive treatment. The pollens tested and treated at Carolina ENT are representative of local vegetation, and, in some instances, cross-react with similar species around the world.
Often, allergy sufferers associate their symptoms with plants and trees that bear strongly scented flowers. However, the unpleasant side effects of flowering plants are more likely based on sensitivity to what may be considered an unpleasant smell rather than being a true allergy. For a plant to be classified as allergenic its pollen must be small enough to be carried by the wind; the pollen of most flowering plants is too large to be wind-borne and must be transported by birds or insects (hummingbirds, bees, moths, etc.).
Efforts to decrease exposure to seasonal allergens can be very effective, but often difficult or even restrictive. Working directly with offenders during lawn maintenance can be frustrating, but pollen can be intercepted by using filtration masks, protective eyewear and ample clothing. As immediately as possible, clothing covered in allergens should be removed and a shower taken to limit individual exposure, as well as isolating offensive allergens in the home. Otherwise, allergens are transferred throughout the home and individual exposure is prolonged, both of which increase allergic symptoms. In agricultural settings, one could be affected by the grasses and grains fed to livestock, as well as pollens that may be on the animals. Likewise, be aware of pollens carried on the coats of pets that are allowed to be indoors and outdoors.
Using air purifiers is helpful in decreasing the allergen load in a home. Ideally, a central purification system would be available to cleanse all of the air circulating in a house, but this can be cost-prohibitive. A more affordable solution is to use room-sized HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor) air filters focusing in the bedroom and other rooms that are most frequently occupied. Be certain that the filter is large enough to process the air in the room where it is contained. Also, using a vacuum that has a HEPA filter can be helpful in reducing allergens held in carpeting or on flooring, and preventing airborne particles.
lmmunotherapy for seasonal allergies is very effective. However, injections should be taken year-round, not just
during the blooming season. Often, treatment during blooming seasons must be very conservative due to intense allergy symptoms and to avoid serious reactions. Taking injections regularly, when you are well, in the “off season” (when your body is not struggling with an overload of allergens) helps to build immunity and decrease annoying symptoms when the offending allergens return in season. Over time (usually 3-5 years), immunotherapy elicits a change in immune function decreasing symptoms and sensitivities. including those to seasonal allergens.
Allergic Load: The Bucket Theory
- Walls of The Bucket = Your immune system’s capacity
- Water level in The Bucket = Summation of your load
- Water overflowing The Bucket = Symptoms
- Mat under The Bucket = Medications
- Stress = Lowered walls of The Bucket and increase water levels
- lmmunotherapy = Raises walls of The Bucket
- Avoidance Therapy= Allows less water in The Bucket
There are many things the allergy patient may do to decrease their allergic load:
- Isolate the allergen or allergen producing item. For example, mattress encasings can keep you from coming in contact with dust mites which are living and multiplying in your mattress and box springs.
- Remove the allergen or allergen producing items from your home and particularly your bedroom. Any of the common allergens or other items that bring on your symptoms should be taken from your breathing space. For example, if you have a pet, it is best that the animal stay outside. If it is not possible for the animal to live outside, keep it out of your bedroom and DO NOT let it sleep with you.
- Ventilate to remove allergens or pollutants. This can be helpful to dilute tobacco smoke, odors, and chemical fumes. These substances should be avoided by the allergic or sensitive person.
- Filter allergens from the air. High performance filters (HEPA – high efficiency particulate arrestor) in the central air system can remove dust, pollen, dander, and mold which all contribute to total allergic load. Room air purifiers can provide a continuous supply of clean, allergen-free air for working and sleeping.
- Recognize the need to make your bedroom as allergen-free as possible. You spend more time in your bedroom than any other room in your home, assuming you sleep in your bedroom for at least 6 hours a day. Breathing clean air while you sleep gives your immune system an opportunity to recuperate from daytime exposures.
- Consult with your physician about improving your nutrition. Foods contain energy, nutrients, and other components that effect health and the mechanics of the body. Proper nutrition is an important aspect of overall wellness.
- Lower your stress level. Stress lowers your resistance to allergen exposures, as mentioned above.
- Engage in physical activity. Moderate physical activity for 20-30 minutes a day at least 4 days a week will increase your overall wellness. Exercise is also effective in reducing stress levels and contributes to more restful sleep.
- Get more rest. Fatigue compromises the body’s defenses against allergies, as well as other illnesses. Rest not only makes you look and feel better superficially, it gives your immune system a boost and support that it needs to protect your body.