What Are Allergies?

An allergy is an exaggerated response to substances that, in most individuals, cause no difficulty. Allergy is a name given to the way your body reacts when it mistakes ordinarily harmless substances (like grass, tree or weed pollen) for something harmful.

An allergy sufferer's immune system overreacts to pollen. Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, occurs in the spring and fall when the air is full of pollen-- particularly here in the agriculturally-rich San Joaquin Valley.

A substance that causes the exaggerated response is called an allergen. Allergies are among the most common diseases experienced by Americans. They are believed to complicate the lives of as many as 40 million adults and children in the United States. That means allergies are the country's sixth most prevalent chronic condition.

What Do I Do If I Think I Have Allergies?

See your health care provider. Only your physician can tell if you have allergies. Before you make this visit, make a list of your questions. Take your list with you so you'll remember to ask all of your questions.

Physical Examination

Sometimes your physician can see signs of allergies: Allergic shines-- dark circles under your eyes or nasal crease-- a line, rather like a wrinkle on your nose that comes from rubbing it often. The color of mucus in your nose is also important. Clear mucus usually means allergy. Yellow or green mucus usually means an infection.

Nasal Allergies

A Good Workout is Nothing to Sneeze at... Many people with nasal allergy symptoms also experience difficulty breathing (bronchospasm) when exercising or playing sports. However, summer allergies needn’t get in the way of your workouts. Here are a few tips to keep you—and not your nose—on the go:

Always warm up and stretch indoors

Consider exercising indoors or at the beach, where ocean breezes help keep the pollen count low

Plan your exercise around pollen. Pollen can be highest during the hours of 5 am to10 am and is often carried back to the earth by cooler air between 5 pm to 9 pm

  • Exercise after a rain if you have pollen allergies (but not if you are allergic to molds!)
  • Avoid exercising in or near fields or meadows
  • When ozone, smog, or other pollution levels are high (typically in the afternoon), avoid vigorous outdoor activity
  • Don’t exercise on congested roads or during rush hour—pollution levels can be elevated within 50 feet of the roadway
  • Consider taking up swimming—something you can do indoors all year long

Don’t get sidelined by nasal allergies!

What Are Allergy Shots and What Can They Do For Me?

Allergy shots are called immunotherapy and they may help to make your immune system less sensitive to the things that cause your allergy symptoms.

Should I Have Allergy Shots?

Maybe-- If you are allergic to an unavoidable plant, animal, or insect.
Maybe-- If you have to take large amounts of medicine to control your allergies but still have symptoms.
Maybe-- If your allergies are seriously affecting your daily life.
Maybe-- If you have lost days to fatigue and infection.
Maybe-- If you are willing to make a commitment of 3 to 5 years of year-round injections.

Can Allergy Shots Really Help?

The success rate for allergy shots is high-- about 75% to 85%. Many patients consider themselves "cured" after completing the shots, but some will suffer a recurrence. Most patients who complete the full program of shots usually do not need to take the 3 to 5 years of shots again. A few patients get only short-term relief and continue to need shots monthly.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic Rhinitis, referred to as hay fever, is an inflammation of nasal passages caused by an allergic reaction to airborne substances. Allergic Rhinitis affects between 10-20% of all people in the US and is one of the most common allergic conditions. Seasonal and Perennial are the two types of allergic rhinitis. Seasonal occurs in the spring, summer and early fall - plant pollens are at the highest levels during this time. Perennial occurs all year and is caused by home or work environments.

Allergic reactions involve a set of cells in the immune system. These cells, found in the lining of the nasal passages and eyelids, are a special type of antibody, called immunoglobulin type E.

Any type of tree or grass can cause Allergic Rhinitis. The following tend to be the most trouble for people;

  • Sagebrush
  • Pigweed
  • Tumbleweed
  • Plantain
  • Ragweed
  • Dock/sorrel
  • Lamb’s-quarters

Perennial allergic Rhinitis is often triggered by a mixture of airborne particles which are potent allergens. House dust contains the following:

  • House mite body parts
  • Animal dander
  • Mold spores

Other potential causes of perennial allergic rhinitis are the following:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfume
  • Cosmetics
  • Cleaners
  • Chemicals
  • Material gases

Symptoms are itching, sneezing, runny nose, redness and inflammation and tenderness. A congestive feeling, ear popping, mucus from sinuses running down the back of the throat combined with increase sensitivity can also sometimes occur.

Breathe Easier about Summer Camp ... Tips for Parents and Asthmatic Children

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