Due to environmental changes over the past few years, allergy season has expanded from a few short months to what (seemingly) feels like a never-ending period. For many people around the world, allergies create significant issues in their day-to-day life, particularly if they suffer from frequent flare-ups. The resulting decrease in an individual’s quality of life is unfair, yet can be managed with a little bit more knowledge and preparation.
If you frequently suffer from sneezes and runny noses and are ready to do something about it, read on for the essential guide to taking control of your allergies — once and for all.
1. Understand what an allergy is and what happens when you come into contact with an allergen.
Before you can take charge of your allergies, it is best first to understand exactly what an allergy is. An allergy happens when an individual’s immune system responds to substances in the environment that are harmless for others. These substances are identified as allergens and can be detected in dust, animals, pollen, insects, fungi, and food.
Currently, the World Allergy Organization estimates 30-40% of the world population is now affected by one or more allergic conditions. However, it is essential to note that a substance that is an allergen for one individual may not be such for another. That being said, the chance of forming allergies is higher if other family members suffer from allergies or asthma.
There are many different types of allergies, and they often exist in several forms, which means that you may feel various symptoms, depending on the allergen and the portion of your body that is exposed to it. The most common areas are the nose, eyes, sinuses and throat; the lungs and the chest; the stomach and bowel, and the skin.
If you have an allergy, and you happen to come into contact with the allergen, then a particular substance (such as histamine) will be released which can potentially trigger an allergic reaction and the development of swelling and inflammation.
2. Know the difference between an allergy and a common cold.
Frequently, individuals aren’t sure whether or not they have an allergy or a common cold. Generally, the symptoms of the two are similar (runny or blocked nose, sneezing, and watery or tingling eyes), although a cold may also come with an irritated throat, fever and body aches. The differences between the two can be seen when looking at when the symptoms start and how long they last.
With allergies, the symptoms usually arise quickly after exposure to the allergen, while with a cold they develop across several days. If you have an allergy, the symptoms should only last as long as you are exposed to the allergen, while with a cold it can last several days.
3. Recognize that allergic rhinitis is becoming more common.
Allergic rhinitis (commonly known as hay fever) is caused by the exposure of the nose or eyes to allergens. Allergic rhinitis is common in the Middle East (and only becoming more prevalent) due to the rise in pollution and variations in the environmental landscape. In the GCC countries, some of the most common indoor and outdoor allergens include dust, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and grass.
Allergic rhinitis symptoms include runny nose, nasal itching, nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, and itchy throat. Any individual can suffer from allergic rhinitis at any point in the year. Sometimes it is seasonal (occurring in spring, summer and early fall), while others experience sustained allergic rhinitis, with symptoms endured throughout the year.
Unfortunately, allergic rhinitis has been shown to have a direct and significant impact on an individual’s quality of life and their performance at work or at school, which is why it is essential to manage these allergies.
4. Take steps to manage the allergies.
The most obvious first step in managing allergic rhinitis is to avoid allergens that trigger the symptoms. This is going to require you to know what causes your allergic reactions which, in many cases, can be determined by the timing of your symptoms. If you are unable to discern the cause, then your doctor can conduct skin or blood tests to identify your allergen(s).
Once you have recognized your allergen, you want to do as much as you can to minimize your exposure to it – this may involve eliminating plants from your garden, dodging touching animals, or using different products to clean your residence. Seek to observe local pollen counts and opt to remain indoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. when pollen counts tend to be the highest. Additionally, always take a nighttime shower to wash off any pollen that’s collected on your skin and hair throughout the day, and opt to run the air conditioning instead of keeping the windows open.
However, allergen avoidance strategies may not always be sufficient because you can’t just lock yourself inside your newly vacuumed home! Should you indeed come into contact with allergens, make sure to use antihistamine as this counters the effects of histamine, which is the bothersome chemical that gets released when you have an allergic reaction. Alternatively, other potential allergy medication includes decongestants, corticosteroids, and specific mast cell stabilizers. If you are unsure what to take, make sure to speak with your doctor.
That being said, you want to be careful when choosing an antihistamine medication as many of the older varieties can cause drowsiness or performance impairment, which isn’t very helpful when you are trying to get on with your life! Instead, opt for the best non drowsy allergy medicine which works as a long-acting antihistamine that alleviates symptoms within 30 minutes and won’t have you instantly falling asleep.
Do you or a loved one suffer from allergies or allergic rhinitis? If so, what tips and tricks do you have for managing it? Or, is it still having a significantly negative impact on your life? Let us know your thoughts and experiences regarding this topic in the comments below so that everyone can help each other.