Allergies affect millions of people worldwide. Seasonal allergies and hay fever are common, especially in months with large amounts of pollen, like spring in the northern hemisphere. But did you know that allergies can be perennial and cause respiratory problems year-round - and that even adults can experience new allergies for the first time, as they get older?
There is a lot that we still don’t know about what causes an allergic response to certain substances in different individuals. When the body encounters an environmental allergen that it is sensitive to, cells in our respiratory tract respond by releasing a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes our body to react with those classic allergy symptoms including wheezing, runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, coughing, scratchy throat, and more. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to extreme, and the range of allergens can vary widely.
Since allergic reactions are tied to the immune system and its release of histamine, treatments can vary. Over-the-counter medication like decongestants and antihistamines can be effective, although some people may experience uncomfortable side effects. Other forms of allergy support can include avoiding the triggering allergenic material, or bolstering the immune system so that ideally the reaction to allergens will be less intense in the future.
Seasonal allergies such as hay fever usually occur in the spring and are triggered by the heavy loads of airborne pollen from flowering trees and bushes. Other common allergies are perennial, like pet dander, dust, dust mites, or mold. Depending on the allergy, it may be impossible to completely avoid the allergen, especially when these are not visible to the naked eye.
With the ongoing concerns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, many are feeling nervous whenever they experience any upper respiratory symptoms, even mild ones - and understandably so. Individuals who experience coughing or congestion might be worried that they are presenting symptoms of Covid-19; however, these respiratory discomforts may simply be linked to spring colds or hay fever. Always check with your health care provider if you are at all concerned or if you are experiencing any unusual or out-of-the-norm symptoms.
It’s also possible to develop new allergies as an adult, or simply have an existing allergy you didn’t know about triggered by a new environment. dults can experience allergic symptoms after a lifetime of no allergies, especially if they are exposed to new environmental allergens or areas with higher levels of dust or even air pollution.
Are you finding that as the flowers are blooming, you’re developing some new, uncomfortable symptoms? It’s good to keep track of what you’re experiencing, and where, so that you can have a handy list of your symptoms as well as possible environmental triggers when you consult with your doctor. In some cases, untreated allergies can be part of a larger health issue, like asthma or chronic cough syndrome, or even leave you open to more serious concerns during respiratory illnesses, like bronchitis. If you’re wondering about your respiratory issues, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor so you can identify the cause and get appropriate treatment. Your doctor may refer you to an allergist or immunologist to help nail down the cause.
If you’re already working with a diagnosis and want to learn about some natural alternatives to over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, options are available that may work for you. Keeping your environment, including your clothing, as free of airborne contaminants as possible is extremely important, as is supporting your immune system.
Adaptogens can be part of a beneficial strategy for holistic immune support. Adaptogens - like their name suggests - will help your body adapt to external stressors and can assist with bolstering your immune system. They have many positive effects, such as boosting energy and reducing fatigue, which can help reinforce your overall health. If you are suffering from allergies, using an adaptogenic herbal regime which is targeted at immune support may help you reduce the severity of your symptoms!