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Spring and summer bring a lot of energy and optimism.  However, for some people, it is the time they dread the most.  Why?  Because they suffer from allergies that can make each day an ordeal.

Signs and symptoms

  • Runny, itchy, and stuffy nose with generally thin and clear discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Red, itchy, and watery eyes; eyelids may swell up
  • Itchy mouth, throat, ears, and face
  • Sore throat and dry cough
  • Buzzing in the ears (called tinnitus)
  • Headaches
  • Partial loss of senses of hearing, smell, and taste
  • Fatigue
  • Dark circles under eyes

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (commonly called hay fever) is an allergic reaction that can affect nose, roof of the mouth, back of the throat and conjunctiva (whites of the eyes).  The name “hay fever” is misleading because hay is rarely the trigger and a fever is never present.

In the early 1800s, British doctors noticed that some rural residents started sneezing, coughing and got itchy eyes after being exposed to cut hay or grass.  Today we know that seasonal pollens and molds can set off these symptoms.  They called the condition a “fever” because it caused nervousness, one of the old English definitions of fever.

Perennial allergic rhinitis is a reaction that involves mostly the nasal tissue and it can occur at anytime throughout the year.

Causes

Normally, our immune system fights off foreign substances (commonly called antigens).  The immune system of some people is hypersensitive and can overreact to certain antigens that are harmless to most people.  This over-reaction triggers an allergic reaction.

The first exposure to the antigen (in an allergic reaction it is called allergen) usually does not cause any symptoms but the person gets sensitized, so that every subsequent encounter with the allergen triggers a release of the body’s own chemical substances (such as histamine) that initiate and inflammatory response in a particular part of the body.

Allergies have become increasingly common in the development countries and as research suggests, this is paradoxically due to the wide use of mainly antibiotics and household disinfectants.  Development of a healthy immune system requires some exposure to bacteria, viruses and parasites and since we get less and less exposed to them, our immune system may instead react to harmless substances such as pollen and mold and thus activate an allergic reaction.

In seasonal rhinitis, allergens causing inflammation of the nose, throat and eyes are outdoor pollens (from tree, grass, ragweed), spores and molds that are carried on the wind during certain times of the year, hence seasonal rhinitis.  People may react to one or more allergens.

Indoor allergens, such as animal dander, dust mites, and molds/spores (found in carpeting, wallpaper, house plants) trigger allergic reaction all year around, hence perennial rhinitis.

 

To be continued…

 

Until next time…stay healthy

Katarzyna

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