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It’s estimated that more than 50 million Americans suffer from some type of allergy, with pollen and ragweed as the most common allergens. With the warmer weather fast approaching, the flood of tree pollen allergy sufferers will be trying to cope with a multitude of powerful allergens in the air. In response to seasonal allergies becoming more common, Sofia Mavasheva, MD, from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (RWJUH Hamilton), an RWJBarnabas Health facility and a member of the RWJ Physician Enterprise, offers some insight on how average allergy sufferers and can deal with this year’s powerful pollen season to avoid developing more serious conditions.
What exactly are allergies?
An allergy is when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen. It could be something you eat, inhale into your lungs, inject into your body or touch. This reaction could cause coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose and a scratchy throat. In severe cases, it can cause rashes, hives, low blood pressure, breathing trouble, asthma attacks and even death. Common allergens include pollen, ragweed, animal dander, dust mites and mold.
Is asthma a type of allergy?
The allergens that can trigger your coughing and sneezing can also cause asthma. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that can be alleviated if properly treated, but untreated can lead to progressive loss of lung function. Allergies are the fundamentals to developing asthma.
Does asthma only affect children?
Asthma affects around 10 percent of the population and is more common in children but there has been a shift in the last 20-40 years. We’re seeing more and more adults develop asthma later in life due to chronic allergies. This is largely due to the changing climate and the impact changing climate has on pollen production. There is a longer duration of pollen seasons.
How can I control my allergies?
There are a number of things you can do to control your allergies. First and foremost, be aware of the daily pollen count. Monitoring the pollen count can help you figure out which pollen you’re specifically allergic to. Try to stay indoors when pollen counts are higher and keep windows closed. You should also remove outside clothing you’ve been wearing all day before you go inside. This ensures that you won’t track the pollen in. Showering at night can also help to alleviate allergy symptoms brought on by pollen. Additionally, if you know you’re allergic to certain pollens, start taking your anti-inflammatory or antihistamine medications early to pretreat the symptoms. For indoor allergies, keep your house dust-mite free by keeping your home’s temperature in the mid-60s and the humidity levels between 30-40 percent. Dust mites can’t survive in these conditions. Mold also thrives in warm, damp conditions and can hide in dark, hidden places in your house. Regularly check under carpets, in cabinets and in bathroom for mold and take the necessary precautions to eliminate it. Finally, see an allergist. If you’re taking an antihistamine every day and you still aren’t finding relief, an allergist can help you to take the next step towards getting relief.
If you already know you suffer from asthma or spring allergies, we encourage you to be prepared for a particularly intense pollen season and to follow the prevention tips above to alleviate symptoms. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mavasheva, please call (609) 586-8060.