You know those classic cold symptoms? Sneezing, runny noses, fevers, that kind of thing. Turns out, the majority of these symptoms are not caused by the cold virus itself. Actually, your body’s immune response creates these symptoms as a by-product. It may sound odd, but your immune system produces a fever to safeguard you from bacteria and viruses.
Your immune system is pretty great! When your body would normally be overrun with germs, your immune system keeps you healthy. But sometimes, your immune system gets overwhelmed and is unable to get everything correct. Sometimes, your immune system mistakes something harmless for a threat and attacks it with all those antibodies.
All sorts of things can trigger allergic reactions in people: dust, animals, nuts, root beer, you name it. Environmental allergies, specifically, can cause symptoms that are very similar to the common cold: runny nose, sneezing, headaches, and more. Environmental allergies are normally breathed in, they’re part of your environment (hence the name), making them extra challenging to prevent. Your sinuses can be devastated as a result and with them, your peace of mind.
Seasonal allergy symptoms
Allergic reactions occur when your immune system identifies something otherwise harmless as a danger to your health. Whether that’s mold, pollen, or cat dander, your immune system will then spring into action its defenses. For most people, this will cause some of those characteristic symptoms. Here are several of the most prevalent:
- Stuffy nose
- An itchy nose
- Feeling tired all the time
- Eyes that are itchy or red or watery
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Postnasal drip
- Coughing and wheezing
The symptoms can be substantial as you can tell. And from person to person, these symptoms can vary. One person may start coughing when they are near a furry pet, another may start sneezing. But there’s a reason why sneezing is such a stereotypical symptom, amongst others.
Allergy symptom causes
Environmental allergies can be triggered by lots of substances, medical professionals generally call them “allergens”. Here are a number of examples of common allergens:
- Pet dander: Your allergic reaction isn’t usually due to the fur on your cat or dog.: it’s their dander. This is especially true because dander is light and can get up into the air. Pet dander can trigger all of those allergy symptoms if you’re allergic to it.
- Dust mites: Dust mites are little bugs that feast on dust. Typically, they’re harmless. But when they cause allergic reactions, it means you can find yourself with itchy eyes or a runny nose, or even wheezing.
- Pollen: When it comes to seasonal allergies, this one is huge. Seasonally, these microspores are released by things like flowers, weeds, and trees. They’re completely harmless unless you’re allergic to them. Many pollens are pretty local, traveling only a small distance. But types of pollen can catch a ride on air currents and travel for miles. Which means you could have a pollen allergy even if there’s nothing green around.
- Dust: The majority of homes have more dust than you may think. In many situations, this dust can either itself cause, or carry other allergens that can cause allergic reactions. It’s a good reason to clean your house!
These are just some of the environmental allergens out there. lots of these categories can break down even further (for example, if you have an allergy to pine pollen, that doesn’t necessarily mean you would have an allergy to oak trees.).
How do I know if I have allergies?
Perhaps you have some idea as to what you might be allergic to. But going to your doctor to get examined is the only way to find out. There are a couple of ways that allergies can be diagnosed. Here are the two most prevalent:
- Pin prick test: Your doctor will gently prick your skin with suspected allergens and watch to see if you have a reaction! Generally, this method is the most dependable. It can produce some itching, but that’s a standard part of the test.
- Blood testing: Your doctor will look for specific markers in your blood that indicate an allergic response.
Obtaining an official diagnosis will always require a visit to your provider! And you will have the peace of mind of recognizing precisely what your allergies are.
How to treat allergies
Allergic reactions, regrettably, have no cure. But treating them requires three basic methods.
It’s possible for you to avoid the onset of allergy symptoms by decreasing your exposure to allergen triggers. Indoors, this means keeping the air clean, keeping mold under control, and vacuuming frequently (particularly if pet dander is a problem). Your pets should be brushed regularly and don’t hang your clothes out to dry.
When you’re going outside, determine the pollen count, and don’t be afraid to wear a mask if you need to. Pollen counts are often lowest in the early morning and late evening, so plan your activities around those times.
Managing symptoms can in some cases be accomplished with the use of short-term medications, like antihistamines. These are medications you can take when your symptoms surface and, with some luck, you’ll be able to attain a certain amount of relief.
It’s never a great idea to continue to be on these medications over long periods of time like months or years and should only be used to get you through a day or a week.
Treating allergies over the long-term
Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment option that frequently proves to be rather successful. If you’re allergic to cat dander, for instance, your doctor will expose you to a special formula that consists of a tiny amount of cat dander.
It isn’t enough to cause a reaction. But it is enough to begin getting your immune system accustomed to the allergen. The amount of allergen will gradually increase with each following injection. With time your immune system can become successfully desensitized with this method.
It might take some months to get positive outcomes with this treatment. But you can be symptom free for many years once your immune system is desensitized to that allergen. Tablets, drops, and shots are various forms of this type of immunotherapy.
You don’t have to suffer with allergies
If you have environmental allergies, there are probably some times of the year when you find yourself with a “cold” that just won’t go away. Well, it might not even be a cold! Environmental allergies can be particularly difficult because they’re so prevalent that they’re difficult to escape.
But just because you have environmental allergies doesn’t mean you have to be suffering. After all, recurring allergy symptoms can result in sinus infections or repeated sinus infections. Controlling allergy symptoms is the best way to avoid all this.
Need some help with your environmental allergies? Schedule an appointment with us and find out about your options.