Spring is in the air. Unfortunately, so are billions of tiny, airborne pollen grains. Sadly, for 24 million Americans (nearly 1 in 13 people), that can only mean one thing: seasonal allergic rhinitis, aka hay fever.
“Pollen is one of the most common allergens for people of all demographics,” says Denver Nurse Practitioner Kelly Steward. Thankfully, most of the pollen that causes allergic reactions comes from trees, grasses, and weeds—not the roses you got for your mom on Mother’s Day.
What is an allergic reaction?
“An allergic reaction is basically a case of mistaken identity,” says Steward. “Your immune system is designed to produce antibodies that attack harmful invaders. Generally, that means things like viruses, bacteria, and toxins.”
If you suffer from hay fever, though, your immune system treats pollen like it would any other harmful substance and starts making antibodies to fight this otherwise harmless intruder. Later, when pollen grains enter your body—typically through your nose, mouth, eyes, or lungs—these antibodies are triggered and frantically start sending signals that prompt your immune system to start releasing histamines into your bloodstream. Those histamines, in turn, may produce all kinds of unpleasant symptoms.
“Hay fever often mimics the symptoms of a common cold,” says Steward. “You may experience coughing, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and itchy, bloodshot eyes. For some, it can even lead to seemingly unrelated symptoms like hives, nausea, fatigue—even joint, back, and neck pain.”
What is the connection between allergies and asthma?
For certain people, allergies can also cause asthma—coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and feelings of tightness in the chest. This condition is called allergy-induced asthma or allergic asthma.
The same pollens that cause hay fever can also trigger asthma. Notably, not everyone with allergies also has asthma, and not everyone who has asthma suffers from allergies, but the two are often related.
The Good Clinic is here to help, whether you need a long-term treatment plan or short-term relief
“Asthma attacks are stressful and dangerous,” says Steward. “That’s not the time to be scrambling around, figuring out what to do. If you’ve previously experienced asthma or asthma-like symptoms, you need a plan.”
Most treatment plans will include a daily regimen of preventive medication to manage your symptoms and a fast-acting intervention, like an inhaler. Luckily, asthma attacks start slowly, so if you’re well prepared you can likely stop an attack before it gets too far along.
As for seasonal allergic rhinitis, “If you’ve been suffering cold-like symptoms for two weeks or more, it’s probably time to get help,” says Steward. “Whether you just need something to alleviate your symptoms or a way to help stop your immune system stop overreacting, we’ll put together a treatment plan that’s right for you.”
Seasonal allergies and asthma are bad. The Good Clinic is here to help.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/sick-man-in-white-shirt-wiping-his-nose-with-tissue-7596886/