Come spring and 27-year-old Sneha says that she is forced to walk around with sniffles, accompanied by sneezing fits. Ive tried anti-allergens and even homeopathy. It works for a while, but its the same story every spring and summer in Delhi.
Spring is the key time of year for seasonal allergies. The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen, and trees, grasses, and weeds release these tiny grains into the air to fertilise other plants this time of the year. When someone allergic to pollen comes in contact with it, the immune system releases antibodies that attack the allergens. This leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood, which in turn trigger runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, itchy sinuses, throat, or ear canals, ear congestion, postnasal drainage. Pollen can travel for miles, so its not just about the plants in your neighbourhood, says Dr RK Singal, Principal Consultant and Director, Internal Medicine, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi. But, one needs to check how long the symptoms last - cold symptoms generally last seven to 10 days, whereas allergy symptoms continue with exposure to the allergen (symptom trigger) - before getting treated. Common allergens include trees like Alder, Ash, Aspen, Beech, Box elder, Cedar, Cottonwood, Cypress, Elm, Hickory, Juniper, Maple, Mulberry, Oak, Olive, Palm, Pine, Poplar, Sycamore, Willow, grass and weeds like Bermuda Fescue, Johnson, Orchard.
El Nino winds are also responsible for extremely wet and warm weather conditions that support the growth of greenery fertile breeding condition for molds, which increases the count of pollens and mold spores in the environment and ultimately precipitates allergic reactions, adds Dr Shikha Sharma, Founder, Dr Shikhas NutriHealth. But, what causes these allergies? People tend to inherit certain genetic disposition towards allergies. During spring, the immune system of the body is exposed to different allergens and forms allergy-specific antibodies (called immunoglobulins), which are present in the cells of your eyes, nose, lungs and skin.
So, the next time the person comes in contact with a particular allergen, their body reacts by releasing chemicals called histamines, leading to an allergic reaction, explains Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, Consultant- Department of Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Hospital in Faridabad. Mold allergy is another common allergy people suffer from in the spring. Caused by spores of fungus that generally grows in moist, the allergy is triggered by exposure to dark spaces like garbage cans, piles of rotting leaves or basements where mold grows quite quickly. Symptoms include itchy eyes, runny nose, along with rash or wheezing, says Dr Vivek Mehta Pulastyas-Cadle Skin Laser Clinic, MBBS, MD (Dermatology).
Dr M Udaya Kumar Maiya, Medical Director, Portea Medical, points out that certain summer fruits and vegetables can also cause an allergic reaction among people allergic to pollen. This is because the fruits contain a protein structure similar to that found in pollen and our body reacts to such fruits in the same way it reacts to the pollen. The allergy symptoms range from a minor skin rash to burning, itching and also anaphylaxis or chest constriction and other respira-tory distress in severe cases. Heating the fruit for two to five minutes helps to bring this allergic reaction down. Common summer fruits which tend to cause allergy are berries, peaches, watermelons, and sometimes even mangoes.
Dr SHIKHA also blames heavy rains for allergies, as it not only provides optimal condition for the growth of those plants which fertilise through pollination, which leads to increase in pollen grains count, but it also splits pollens into smaller particles that are more likely to get inhaled, causing allergic reactions. Further, heavy rain also increases the mold spore count. Theres also allergic conjunctivitis - when the conjunctiva of eyes comes in contact with allergens it leads to inflammation and reddening of eye due to commencement of allergic reactions, as well as allergy-induced asthma, wherein allergens like pollens, dust mites and mold spores triggers asthma attack, she adds.
Drug allergies, food allergies to items like egg, milk, gluten (wheat), peanut, kiwi, shell fish, soy, sesame and mustard seeds, latex allergy, chicken pox and measles are some of the other diseases people are more to this time of the year.
Dr Vivek adds that one must get a skin allergy test, which involves either a pricking the surface of the skin with a tiny amount of allergen (prick test), or injecting a tiny sample of a diluted allergen under the skin of your arm or back. If youre allergic to the substance, a small red bump (called a wheal or hive) will form. Sometimes, doctor may also get your blood tests done, he says.
TO KEEP HAY FEVER AT BAY
- Stay indoors on windy days during the pollen season and when the pollen counts are high. Local weather websites usually have pollen count information. Keep all the windows and doors closed.
- Wash clothes more frequently and dont leave your clothes outside to dry.
- Take a bath and wash your hair before bedtime to get the pollen out.
- Buy a portable Hepa filter - High Efficiency Particulate Accumulator filters, which can remove dust mite droppings, pollens, molds, spores, animal dander and many other irritants. Place it in the main living area of the house during the night to clean the air while you sleep. Then run it in the bedroom during the afternoon so the air will be clean while you sleep. Pollen counts are usually highest during late morning and early afternoon, so avoid going outdoors then.
- Use nasal sprays or nasal saline flushing or regular nose blowing to expel out the allergens responsible for allergic reactions.
- Drink tea made with natural antihistamines, especially nettle leaf.
- Avoid intake of cheese, food which contains vinegar like salad, pickles; butter milk, food made with yeast like breads, dry fruits like dates, raisins, figs, and canned juice.