Ah! The dark and dismal road of winter lies behind us as the path of spring suddenly appears adorned with blooming flowers and plants, green lawns, colorful birds, buzzing insects and, unfortunately, the urge to scratch noses and rub eyes. For many, the return of spring allergies is as certain as the season itself.
Causes – Antigens, such as pollen, pet dander or dust, enter the body through the eyes, nose, mouth or other opening in the skin and are perceived as foreign substances by the body’s immune system which begins to produce antibodies to attack and destroy the antigens. Allergies occur when the body overreacts and produces more antibodies than are necessary. It is the body’s overreaction to antigens that causes allergy symptoms.
Symptoms – The symptoms of allergies are similar to those of a common cold – nasal discharge, sneezing, cough, – but differ in subtle ways. The symptoms of an allergy usually appear all at once and last for the duration of the exposure to the antigen. With a cold, the symptoms normally appear one-by-one and last 7-10 days.
Differences between symptoms of an allergy and a cold – A nasal discharge caused from an allergy is normally clear. With a cold, the discharge may start clear but will become thick and creamy colored within a few days. Sneezing is less productive with an allergy than with a cold. With an allergy, coughing is usually dry and hacking while coughing caused by a cold sounds wetter and is more productive. Itchy eyes seldom occur with a cold but are common with an allergy. An itchy throat is symptomatic of an allergy while a sore throat normally accompanies a cold. Also, colds are often accompanied by a fever. A fever never occurs with an allergy.
Relief for symptoms of allergies – While there is no cure for allergies; relief may come in the form of over-the-counter medications. Antihistamines, steroids and decongestants have been used for years to treat allergies. These come in the form of pills, nasal sprays and eye drops.
Those who suffer severe allergic reactions often seek medical help in controlling their allergies. After submitting to allergy testing, shots or other medication may be prescribed. Air purifiers and humidifiers may also help combat allergies by improving indoor air quality.
For many, however, the best relief for allergy symptoms is simply to avoid exposure to known allergens as much as possible.