Allergies are often triggered by allergens like pollen, dust and mold. If you struggle with seasonal allergies, you may be reading this through itchy, watery eyes, as mid-spring through late summer is when most allergens are in full bloom.
Common allergens include things like weeds, mold, dust mites, grass and pollen. Each one produces tiny particles or grains that travel in the wind. These tiny particles end up on your skin and clothes or being inhaled through your nose and mouth.
What are allergies?
When you experience allergy symptoms, it means your body has mistaken pollen, a harmless substance, for something dangerous and tries to attack it. Your body reacts through symptoms like coughing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes. In fact, seasonal allergies mimic cold symptoms but tend to last much longer than the average cold.
Surprisingly, your body’s response to seasonal allergies starts long before you notice any symptoms.
What happens in my body when it comes in contact with an allergen?
If you are vulnerable to allergic reactions, you may not know it at first because the first time your body is exposed to an allergen you don’t experience any symptoms.
When your body comes in contact with an allergen your body isn’t familiar with, it overreacts by producing antibodies for that specific allergy-producing substance. This means you become sensitized (or sensitive) to the substance, and future exposures can produce an allergic reaction.
Over time, the immune system develops something called immunological memory. Basically, your immune system stores an antibody in its memory and activates it each time you come in contact with its specific allergen. These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals called histamines, which cause the allergic reaction. This reaction commonly occurs in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin. Normally, this immune response is helpful and enables your body to respond more quickly to illness. (It’s also what allows vaccines to work.)
In seasonal allergies, however, the body’s response is magnified, and repeated exposure causes recurrent overreactions of the immune system.
Why do some people get allergies while others don’t?
Anyone can get allergies, at any age, but the major difference is in your genes. Allergies tend to run in families, so if your parents have allergies, you probably will too. Another risk factor for getting allergies is your environment. You can become allergic to certain substances through prolonged or repeated exposure to them. So what that means is, the more intense the exposure, the more often you come in contact with it and the earlier in life it happens, the more likely you’ll be allergic.
Other factors that may increase your risk of getting allergies include smoking, pollution, infection and hormones.
What is the best way to reduce my exposure to allergens?
Here are a few tips that can help reduce your exposure to allergens:
- Do essential yard work or other outdoor tasks after a rainfall, which helps clear pollen from the air.
- Take a shower and put on fresh clothing after time outdoors. This helps remove pollen and other allergens on your body and hair.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses when outside to stop allergens from getting into your eyes.
Seasonal allergies can often feel like a cold, but there are key differences. If you’ve been ill for more than 7 days without a fever or are experiencing itchy, watery eyes, it’s time to visit Coastal Urgent Care of Bossier/Haughton to learn more about seasonal allergies and allergy symptoms. Our board-certified physicians can help diagnose and manage your allergy symptoms so you can get back to doing the things you love.