An allergy occurs when the body overreacts to the things which don’t typically cause problems for most people. These things are called allergens and the body overreacts to the allergens which causes the symptoms of allergies. The most common allergens include pollen from trees, grass, and weeds. Most allergies occur in the spring, typically late April and May, and are often due to tree pollen. Allergies that occur in the fall, late August to the first hard frost, are often due to ragweed. Mold is a common cause of allergies and is common where water tends to collect, such as shower curtains, damp basements, and window moldings. It may also be found in rotting logs, hay, mulches, compost piles, and leaf piles. This allergy is typically worse during humid or rainy weather.
There are no controllable risk factors for adults who wish to decrease their risk of developing allergies. This is due to the fact that allergy development is not related to lifestyle habits. Early childhood exposure to common household microbes, environmental bacteria, and fermented foods may help to reduce a child’s risk of developing allergies as they get older. Childhood exposure to pets, especially during the first year of life when the immune system is still developing, has been associated with a decreased risk of allergies to pet dander. Children are also at special risk of lung damage and illness from inhaled secondhand smoke so children of parents who smoke are at an increased risk for other respiratory illnesses including asthma.
Medications aimed at reducing inflammation are effective for allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, and non-allergic asthma. Corticosteroids help to reduce inflammation while intranasal corticosteroids are sprayed into nostrils, reducing inflammation from hay fever. Corticosteroid creams applied to your skin reduces the inflammation of eczema. Other medications are clearly more effective for one condition over another. Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis, but have a very minor benefit for asthma.
A family history of allergies is the strongest risk factor having allergic asthma. Anyone with allergies is more likely to develop asthma. Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma, but there are other forms and triggers of asthma, including exercise induced asthma and non-allergic asthma triggered by infections or cold air. Recognizing the relationship between the body’s immune system and how the airways react has helped to improve treatment of asthma symptoms for many sufferers of allergic asthma.
Self-care measures and preventive strategies are often not enough to ward of allergy symptoms. The need to use allergy medications, whether prescription or over the counter, usually helps control symptoms of allergies. Antihistamines are oral allergy medications and nasal sprays which relieve symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, and runny nose. Antihistamines are usually more useful if used before exposure to allergens and may cause drowsiness or a dry mouth. Decongestants are available in pill, nose spray, and nose drop form and help to unblock a stuffed up nose. It is best to use these only for a short amount of time because they may have a rebound effect, making a stuffed up nose even worse. If one allergy treatment doesn’t do the job, then a combination of allergy medications may be necessary. There is usually a bit of trial and error involved with managing allergies, so persistence and patience to find the right regimen is required to manage allergy symptoms.