Allergy season is almost upon us. If you act fast, there are a few everyday steps you can take in order to manage symptoms and enjoy spring–without all the sniffles and allergies.
Spring has almost sprung. Soon, the days are going to get warmer; the trees will become greener, and the dreariness of winter will fade away. But, the arrival of spring also signals the beginning of allergy season. Several studies have shown that allergy season is getting longer and more severe. According to Pharmadynamics, a pharmaceutical company, allergies cost the South African economy more than R600 million a year. The business of allergies is a booming one, with Pharmadynamics estimating that allergy patients tend to spend more than R480 million on allergy medication in total per year. Climate change and increasing carbon-dioxide emissions are predicted to cause more trees and grass to grow, which means higher concentrations of pollen in different areas. It has been a frosty few months, but preparing for allergy season can help you beat the sniffles before they arrive.
WHY DO WE GET ALLERGIES?
According to the Mayo Clinic, allergies typically occur when your body’s immune system identifies a (typically harmless) substance as a potential risk. When this happens, your body produces antibodies and develops physiological reactions that can cause sneezing, watery eyes, a runny nose, fatigue, headaches, and chest-tightening symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening, and in the event that anaphylaxis occurs, emergency medical attention is required. Those who suffer from allergies can experience symptoms that can fluctuate from ‘annoying to frankly dangerous,’ according to paediatrician and allergy specialist, Professor Claudia Gray. ‘In general, allergies are caused by a genetic tendency for the immune system to ‘overreact’ to substances that should normally be harmless.’
Seasonal allergies are a subcategory of allergic reactions regularly sparked by indoor and outdoor elements like grass, pollen, mould, dust, and ragweed. These plants release pollen into the air to fertilise other plants, but when the pollen enters our nasal passageways, we’re frequently left at the mercy of our allergies. Our immune systems recognise the pollen as dangerous, releasing antibodies to deal with it. This then leads to chemicals called histamines entering our bloodstream. Histamines activate common allergy symptoms, which can leave us in very uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, allergy season, for much of South Africa, begins in September and lasts until late March, according to a paper published by the South African Journal of Science.
WHAT SHOULD YOU AVOID?
Do what you can to keep your allergies at bay by reducing your exposure to elements that are most likely to trigger your specific allergy and its symptoms.
REDUCE YOUR EXPOSURE
> Stay indoors on dry and windy days. Rain helps clear the air of pollen, so the best time to be outside would be after it has rained.
> Check online for the pollen forecasts and pollen levels in your area. If there are high pollen counts predicted, take allergy medication before your symptoms appear.
> Pollen counts are usually highest in the morning (around mid-morning) so try to keep outdoor morning activities to a minimum.
> Keep the aircon on at home, as well as in your car.
> Use a humidifier indoors to keep the air dry.
> Get a vacuum cleaner that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
> Change your bedding weekly, and use hot water to wash them.
> Make sure your houseplants and flowers don’t add to your suffering.
> Close windows and doors when pollen counts are high.
> Mowing the lawn, pulling out weeds, and general gardening can also call on some allergens.
> Don’t wear clothes that you’ve worn outside when at home, and shower to rinse the pollen away.
> Your pets might be bringing in pollen from outside, so don’t let them sleep in your bed.
Words by Leah Dennis
Photography: freepik, gallo/gettyimagess