Spring is a time of flowers, trees, soft breezes and – POLLEN! To those that suffer from seasonal allergy, spring is a time of torment – stuffy noses, sneezing and itchy eyes.
Yes, I’m one of thos crazy people who runs around closing windows and who sits by the air conditioner sneezing while everyone else is out enjoying green grass and soaking up the warm breezes.
I’m not alone. Over 40 million people suffer from environmental allergies. We watch pollen counts like ball players watch the weather, and sometimes drastically alter our lifestyle to live around our misery.
As you have probably figured out by now, spring allergies are caused mostly by pollen, natural plant spores from flowering plants. Pollen from regular garden flowers is not really the problem since it is heavy pollen and is spread by bees that don’t have allergies and seldom sneeze.
The problem plants for us are things like grass, trees, weeds and wildflowers whose pollen is lighter and is spread by the wind instead of bees. Once it becomes airborne, pollen is literally everywhere there is air, unless you live in a desert or on a beach where few pollinating plants grow.
When an allergic person breathes air with pollen, the body senses the pollen as an alien invasion and sends out a red alert. To wage war on these sinister invaders, the body creates antibodies, which cause a chain reaction resulting in release of the “histamine” that cause the irritation and sneezing. That’s why so many anti-allergy medicines are called “antihistamines.”
Symptoms of allergy are similar to those of the common cold. Remember how stuffed up, tired and congested you were the last time you had a miserable cold? Then you know why allergic people are such fanatics about clean air. A big difference between a cold and allergy is that you usually have a fever with a cold. Also, a cold has the common courtesy to go away after a week or two.
Allergies used to go untreated and were mostly simply ignored. People sometimes tried to self-treat their symptoms with medicines from the drugstore shelf. Many people probably still suffer needlessly instead of going to the doctor – they may think that they just sneeze a lot or that nothing will help their sinus problems.
Allergy may now be treated with newer allergy medications. There are also steroid sprays and other anti-inflammatory sprays and medicines that help with inflammation. I take allergy shots, medicine specially prepared for my particular needs. Yes, it’s inconvenient to have to go to the doctor weekly to get stuck with a needle – but it’s also inconvenient to be sick all the time.
The idea of the injections is to help to build your resistance to the allergens so that eventually your body will quit hitting the panic button when it senses pollen.
Now, I hope all this stuff means nothing to you, and you can’t figure out what the fuss is about over a bit of flower dust. But chances are someone you know suffers from seasonal allergy. Spring pollens are but one of the common allergens. There are also mold and mildew spores that can become airborne, and this is not to even mention the fall pollens and hay fever, or indoor irritants – house and pet dander being principle among them. So, you see why people need different medications according to their particular sensitivity.
And so those with the annoyance of seasonal allergies press bravely on, sniffling and sneezing all the way. Tomorrow I plan to brave the elements to do a bit of yard work. It rained today and the pollen count should be lower, especially in the middle of the day. That’s my theory anyway.
It’s a great spring, and I intend to get out and enjoy it – just as soon as I blow my nose.