Allergies are the sixth most common chronic illness in the U.S., affecting more than 50 million Americans and costing $18 billion annually.1 Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever, affect many in the spring, summer and/or early fall and are caused by sensitivity to certain pollens from trees and grasses.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against germs and bacteria. Comprised of cells, proteins, tissues and organs, it is essential in maintaining your health and preventing infections. When a threat is perceived, the immune system responds by attacking the substances that are invading the body.
Allergies are the result of the immune system responding in an overprotective manner to a harmless substance. When an allergen is encountered, antibodies – proteins designed to protect against foreign invaders – are produced. These trigger the release of chemicals called histamines, which are responsible for the telltale symptoms of allergies.
What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies?
Symptoms of hay fever closely mirror that of the common cold, minus the body aches and fever. Signs include sneezing, watery eyes, itchiness in the nose, throat and eyes, runny/stuffy nose, sinus pain/pressure and swollen eyes. Some patients report headaches as well as a loss of smell and taste. Severe cases of hay fever can interfere with your sleep and lead to fatigue and irritability. Hay fever often triggers attacks in asthma sufferers.
Certain risk factors make you more susceptible to developing hay fever. Those who have a family history of hay fever, asthma, other allergies, exposure to secondhand smoke and who are born during pollen season all have an increased chance of contracting hay fever.
How Are Allergies Diagnosed?
A skin prick test is the most common form of allergy testing. This test involves placing a small drop of an allergen extract on your skin. A needle is then used to prick the skin underneath the drop; this allows for a small amount of solution to enter just below the surface of the skin. After 15 minutes any swelling or redness is measured and, depending on the size, is considered a positive reaction.
An intradermal skin test is completed next. An intradermal wheal is injected directly under the top layer of skin. After 15 minutes, any reactions are measured and classified as either positive or negative.
How Are Seasonal Allergies Treated?
Avoiding the allergens that trigger your body’s immune system response is the best way to prevent hay fever. It can be tough to avoid all traces of these substances, of course, making medical treatment necessary for many people.
Drugs – including antihistamines, decongestants and nasal and oral corticosteroids – are often helpful. Over-the-counter medications work fine in many cases, but if you aren’t finding relief from those, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) offer long-term relief when other options fail; they work by allowing your body to build up a tolerance to the offending substance by delivering gradually increasing doses over time.
What Can I Do About My Allergies?
You do not need to suffer from allergies in silence! Your first step in treating your allergies is to come in for an allergy test. You and your provider can work together to come up with a treatment plan is right for you.
Call The Allergy Center at (916) 736-6644 today to schedule your appointment.