Pollen Allergies

Everything you wanted to know…

Introduction

Pollen is a powdered substance that is required by the plants for their reproduction. Plants produce pollen grains to reproduce. Most people think that only flowers contain pollen but as a matter of fact, trees, grasses and weeds produce pollens for fertilization. Pollen allergies are very common. In United States alone, one in seven Americans suffers from pollen allergies making the prevalence rate of 12.87 % in total. Pollens are source of several allergy-related problems with Hay-fever being the most common allergy induced by pollens.

What is pollen allergy?

Definition

If a person’s body reacts abnormally to the inhaled pollen resulting in the visible symptoms of allergy, then this type of allergy is called as “Pollen allergy”. As there are different types of pollens, pollen allergy can be of many types. A person may suffer from one of the following types of pollen allergy.

Types of pollen allergy

Tree, weed and grass pollen allergies are the major types of pollen allergy. However, all these types are further subdivided into an ample number of other types. Some of the sub-types are listed below:

Sub-types of Tree pollen allergies are Pecan, mountain cedar, oak, birch and ash pollen allergies etc.

Ragweed allergies are the most common form of weed pollen allergies. Other forms are redroot pigweed allergies and Russian thistle allergies etc.

Grass allergies have various forms such as bent grass allergy, Bermuda grass allergy, and canary grass allergy etc.

Miscellaneous forms of pollen allergies include Hemp pollen allergy, nettle pollen allergy, beet pollen allergy and Walnut tree allergy along with numerous other forms.

What causes pollen allergy?

Most of the cases of pollen allergies are reported during summer because weeds and grass pollinate during that time. Flowers rely on insects and wind to blow their pollen into other flowers for the purpose of reproduction. The problem occurs when the pollen, instead of being blown into the other flower, gets inhaled by the person. It is because of the wind that pollens end up getting inhaled into our noses. Even during the autumn, the pollens from the weed are still in the air and people develop pollen allergies after inhaling them. Pollens may accumulate into the respiratory system as well.

What are the symptoms of pollen allergies?

Pollens may affect the nasal passage and sinuses badly. Common symptoms associated with pollen allergies are listed below:

  • Runny-nose
  • Clogged nose
  • Itchy throat
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Watery eyes
  • Abdominal pain

What should I do if I have pollen allergy?

Antihistamines (anti-allergic medications), nasal sprays, eye drops and steroids are the common treatment methods for pollen allergies. Honey is also known to alleviate the suffering of the affected people. However, you must still take preventive measures; the top-most one is allergen avoidance especially during pollen season. Cover yourself when you go outside. You can always wear sun-glasses to avoid pollen’s contact with your eyes. You can drive your car keeping the windows closed. You must keep your pet outside your bedroom because it may accumulate pollen into its fur. Take bath immediately after coming back home from outside. Believe it or not, you can simply avoid pollen allergy by avoiding the pollen itself.

Discover the ABCs of Asthma

Introduction 

Have you ever come across some young guy who starts wheezing when he visits someone who has a cat? Furthermore, some of you might have seen some old people who keep coughing and face difficulty in breathing. All these situations are indicative of the fact that these people are suffering from Asthma. An estimated 7-10 % of total world population is suffering from this disease and its prevalence in Western countries is far greater as compared to that in Eastern countries. In US alone, there are more patients of asthma than in most other countries in the world. Around 4,210 people die in United States every year due to this disease. Similarly, in United Kingdom, 5 % of the population is affected with this disease. Besides, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland also have huge number of Asthma sufferers.

 

Definition

Asthma is actually a chronic disease in which a person wheezes and finds it difficult to breathe because his airways become narrower due to inflammation and thus less air is passed to and from the lungs. Such a person is called “Asthmatic”.

When you see that a person nearby is wheezing, coughing and experiencing shortness of breath, he or she is most probably having an “Asthma attack”.

 

Which form of Asthma am I suffering from?

There are many criteria which are helpful in classifying asthma into different categories. These classifications are discussed below:

  • Extrinsic or atopic asthma: As its name tells, symptoms are precipitated by foreign particles (allergens).
  • Intrinsic or non-atopic asthma: Symptoms not precipitated by allergens but rather by some inner mechanism or factor that is present within in the body.
  • Based on severity: Asthma can also be divided on the basis of severity such as mild, moderate and severe asthma. For instance Brittle Asthma is a severe form of Asthma which is further divided into two types; Brittle Asthma I and Brittle Asthma II. Both the types are severe with Asthma II corresponding to sudden exacerbations.

 

How do I identify the condition?

Some of the common symptoms of asthma are as follows:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness or difficulty in breathing
  • Tightness of chest

 

Why am I suffering from Asthma?

The most important factor in determining the cause of Asthma is genetics and inheritance. A person whose parents or either of them is suffering from the disease is more likely to be Asthmatic as he grows up. Also, there are environmental factors that contribute to the chances of getting affected with the disease. Some of these factors and causes are discussed as under:

  • Allergies: Children having allergies have greater chances of becoming Asthmatic.
  • Respiratory Infections: Viral respiratory infections can trigger asthma.
  • Medications: Some medications can bring about Asthma such as Beta Blocker Medications.
  • Tobacco smoke: Tobacco smoke, like much other harm, can trigger Asthma. Not only smokers but passive smokers and babies of pregnant mothers are at stake due to tobacco smoke. Babies whose mothers smoke are more likely to develop this disease if their mothers smoked during the pregnancy.
  • Stress: Recent studies suggest that stress can cause changes in immune system and thus a person gets vulnerable to the disease.
  • Atopic Diseases: People who suffer from atopic diseases such as eczema and hay fever are more likely to get affected by Asthma.

 

Is Asthma curable?

Despite scientific advancements and technological era, asthma is not totally curable. However, it can be taken great care of and is a fully “controllable” disease, thanks to advancements in medical and natural science.

 

Conclusion

If you have asthma, you need not to worry much. You should go to your doctor as there are many long-term control and quick-relief medicines available in the market. Moreover, you must be able to identify those factors which worsen your asthma and simply avoid your exposure to such elements.

Pet Allergies, Types and Treatment

Introduction

Who doesn’t love animals? We all do and especially when it comes to children, they surpass all in their fondness. They get amused by animals and therefore, children are always willing to visit Zoo. It has been a usual trend for many decades to keep a pet animal in the house. In United States alone, half of the households have dogs or cats as their pets. It is never a problem to keep pets if you can take good care of them. Usually, pets are harmless. However, pets can be a source of serious irritation if a person starts developing allergies due to them. Pets never know if they are causing you a problem but you may get angry on your pet if it becomes a source sickness for you. An estimated 10 % of the population may be allergic to animals. Similarly, people, who are already suffering from other allergies, are more susceptible to develop pet allergies.

What is pet allergy?

Definition

Pet allergy, like other allergies, is simply our body’s response (also called “histamine reaction”) to proteins found in animal’s skin, saliva, dander or urine. In other words, it occurs when our bodies become hypersensitive because of some allergens found in the pets.

What causes pet allergy?

Cats and dogs are the most common pets everywhere. In United States, six out of ten people come in contact with either cat or dog. Therefore, dog and cat allergies are too common. However, cat allergies are twice as common as that of dog allergies. Dogs and cats shed dander which can cause allergic reaction. If your pet licks you, you may develop pet allergy because dogs and cats have protein in their saliva which is known to cause allergic reactions. Similarly, animal hair and fur are not deemed as allergens but they may trap other allergens such as dust and pollen and become a source of allergy for the person.

Five cat allergens have been described in medical literature. The two major allergens are Fel d 1 (secretoglobin) and Fel d 4 (lipocalin). The minor allergens include Fel d 2 ( albumin), Fel d 3 (cystatin), and cat IgA (Immunoglobulin A).

How is pet allergy identified?

Swelling, inflammation in eyes, itch, tearing eyes, coughing and stuffy nose are the common symptoms. Furthermore, your skin area licked by the pet can turn red or develop rash. While pet allergies are usually mild, pet allergies can aggravate the condition of asthma patients. Pet allergy is diagnosed by RAST (radioallergosorbent test) blood test. Other common diagnosis method is to add cat in patient’s environment several times to see the patient’s reaction.

How is pet allergy treated?

You can get rid of pert allergy by keeping those pets which don’t have fur, feather or a problem of dander-shedding. For instance, you may keep fur-free dogs or turtles as pet animals. Furthermore, if you still want to stick to cats or dogs, you may keep them outside your home. You should make sure that you wash your pets very often. Try not to come in contact with them. The most viable way of preventing yourself from pet allergy is to avoid exposure to the animal as much as you can.

Hay Fever – the Basics

Introduction

We all remain afraid of getting sick and most of the time when we go to the doctor; we have a “fever”. However, unlike its name, “Hay Fever” is not caused by hay neither does it occur with typical symptom of fever i.e. increased body temperature. On the contrary, it is a form of allergy known as “Allergic Rhinitis”. It occurs when a person inhales pollen, dust or animal dander. Since it happens after inhalation, it results in allergic inflammation of nasal airways. Actually, grass and plants shed their pollens into the air which are inhaled by the people and they suffer from hay fever.

Hay fever is prevalent in Western countries. In Western countries, an estimated 10 – 25 % people suffer from hay fever annually. In America alone, 30 % Americans suffer from hay fever including 40 % of children. Both male and female genders are equally affected.

 

How do we classify Hay fever?

Hay Fever is classified into two main types:

  1. Seasonal Hay fever: It occurs particularly during pollen seasons, usually during spring and fall. Children below 6 years of age do not get affected by seasonal hay fever. Seasonal hay fever can be further classified as under:

 

  • Hay fever caused by Tree Pollen: It occurs during spring.
  • Hay fever caused by Weed Pollen: It occurs during fall.
  • Hay fever caused by Grass Pollen: It affects people at the end of the spring and during summer.
  • Hay fever caused by Fungi: It occurs in warmer seasons.

 

  1. Perennial Hay fever: Perennial Hay fever can occur throughout the year and younger children are more likely to get affected by it. It can last throughout the year depending on the presence of allergen itself.

 

  1. Local Allergic Rhinitis: It refers to the local allergic reaction in the nose to an allergen without systemic manifestations. When a person is tested for an allergy, results are negative but actually antibodies are produced in their nose and react with an allergen. Like general Hay fever, local Hay fever can also be classified into seasonal and perennial local allergic rhinitis. Symptoms are pretty much same as those of allergic rhinitis and they can vary from mild to moderate to severe.

 

How does Hay fever affect us?

People who suffer from hay fever are bothered by excessive nasal secretion along with nasal congestion and obstruction. Furthermore, sneezing, watery eyes, itchy nose and itchy throat are also common symptoms of hay fever. Symptoms of hay fever are dependent on the severity of allergy. For instance, in severe hay fever, findings indicate severe symptoms such as complete loss of smell and taste, blocked sinuses which result in facial pain and itchiness spreading to the ears and throat. Some people suffering from hay fever have also reported about experiencing insomnia and fatigue. Hay fever affects asthma patients so badly resulting in the increase of their breathlessness episodes. According to an estimate, every one in four people suffering from hay fever has asthma.

 

What are the risk factors?

Risk factors actually increase the person’s chances of getting affected with particular disease or condition. A person is likely to get affected with hay fever if he or she has following risk factors:

  • If parents or ancestors have had hay fever.
  • If he/she is younger.
  • If a child is regularly exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • If a child is born during high pollen season.
  • If a child is only child in his family, he is more vulnerable as compared to children with siblings.

 

What preventive measures should I take?

You can always cover your nose when you go outside. Moreover, keep your car windows closed and take all kinds of preventive measures you possibly could to avoid exposure to allergen.

Food Allergies

Introduction

No matter if you are American, Canadian, from Europe or Asia; you definitely can’t say that you don’t like eating delicious food. Since nature has inculcated sense of taste in us; we all enjoy eating delicious food. Similarly, not only do we like the food items of our own country but we are always willing to try different cuisines of other countries and cultures as well. Despite our willingness to try and experiment different varieties of food, why do most of us often avoid specific food items? Why don’t we eat things which are perceived by others as tasty? Why are we not able to eat things we like the most? This is because we fear lest we should develop some form of allergy or some odd reaction. According to statistics, around 6-8 % of children under the age of three suffer from food allergies and an estimated about 4 % of adults have food allergies. If we look into the statistics of United States and Canada, we find out that the percentage of individuals affected by food allergies is almost the same.

How do We Define Food Allergy?

Food allergy, like other allergies, is our body’s response to some specific food items. Food items contain proteins that may be deemed by our immune system as harmful and thus an allergic reaction is triggered. It is only after an occurrence of allergic reaction that symptoms are expressed.

What kind of food products cause allergy?

While any food product can cause food allergy, but still there are many food products that are believed to be the most common cause of food allergy. These food items are listed as under:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Spices
  • Nuts including tree nuts and walnuts

 

Are there different types?

The type of food that causes an allergy determines the associated type of allergy. Allergens are different for different people. For example, most of the children develop food allergies from milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. This is the reason why some children have adverse effects on skin when they eat peanut-chocolates. Adults, on the other hand, may develop food allergies due to eggs and fish. Different kinds of food allergies are listed below:

  • Egg allergy
  • Milk allergy
  • Shellfish allergy
  • Soy allergy
  • Proteins allergy
  • Peanuts allergy

 

How is food allergy identified?

People often confuse food poisoning or food intolerance with food allergy. However, symptoms for food allergy are different from those of the other problems associated with food. Symptoms of food allergy can be observed throughout the body. The most common symptom of food allergies is skin rash or itchy skin. Other possible symptoms include:

 

  • Swelling of the face especially around ears, eyes and lips
  • Itchy sensation inside throat
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Eczema (in severe cases)

 

Furthermore, food allergy is confirmed or diagnosed by different tests such as blood tests and skin prick testing.


How is food allergy treated?

Several medications are available to treat food allergies. Similarly, there are several ointments that can be used treat eczema and other related skin problems that occur due to food allergies.

Conclusion

Although, medicines can play an active role in alleviating the disease, they don’t guarantee a complete or permanent solution. The best strategy to treat food allergies is to identify a particular food allergen and then avoid that food in future.

Allergies: What, why, when and how?

Introduction

Almost all of us experience and encounter some particular type of allergy at least at some part of our lives.

For example, someone may have an eye-itching problem while others may experience runny-nose problem. Similarly, many people keep complaining about being allergic to dust. However, most of us are not aware of the physiological mechanism behind our allergies.

Statistics

Statistics vary for different types of allergies from one country to another. For instance, in United States alone, an estimated 150 people die annually because of Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction). Similarly, in UK, it caused 48 deaths between 1999 and 2006. According to Allergy-UK, one out of every four people suffers from allergy at some point in his / her life. In short, the fact is that allergies are too common and can affect anyone else at any stage in life.

Statistics, however, are indicative that children and youth are more vulnerable to allergies.

What is allergy?

Definition: In simple words, allergy refers to abnormal reaction or response of our body to some harmless (or at times, harmful) substance such as dust and pollen. Substance that causes allergic reaction is called as ‘allergen’ while the reaction or process itself is called as ‘allergy’. Some food items also bring about allergic reactions in some people as some people are hypersensitive to certain foods. Depending on what causes allergic reactions, we have different types of allergies.

What are the types of allergies?

Allergies are broadly classified into two main types:

1. Seasonal Allergies: As their name suggests, these kinds of allergy occur at specific times or during a specific season (or due to weather) during the year. For instance, many people get affected by hay fever during some particular season of the year. Moreover, tree pollen, grass pollen and fungi can be regarded as the main allergens that may contribute to the cause of seasonal allergies.

2. Perennial Allergies: Unlike seasonal allergies, perennial allergies can occur anytime during any season of the year. Allergens that cause perennial allergies can be many such as house dust, cockroaches and insect stings. This is the reason why most of the women wear masks while they clean their homes so as to make sure that they don’t become allergic to the dust particle. Similarly, for some people cigarette smoke acts as an allergen as they are hypersensitive to it and it may induce an allergic response in some people even if the smoker is at a considerable distance from them. Finally, some people also develop perennial allergies from their pets chiefly because of their hair.

3. Other Types (Miscellaneous Allergies): Allergies can be further classified into different types depending on the nature or type of allergens. For example, food allergy refers to the allergy being caused due to some food item.

Similarly, some people develop drug allergies after taking some medications. Likewise, there are other types of allergy that depend on the nature of allergy. For example, if someone’s skin is affected by allergic reactions, this may be deemed as a type called “skin allergy”. Although allergies may alter the mood of the affected person but they are believed to be potentially harmless. However, there is one type of allergic reaction that is known to have adverse effects and acts as a potential threat for humans. This type of allergy is called as ‘Anaphylaxis’. It is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can affect breathing and blood circulation of the person affected, even leading to death in severe cases.

How are allergies identified?

Symptoms for allergies are very obvious; most common being sneezing. Other symptoms could be:

Other common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Coughing
  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Asthma (in severe cases)
  • Watering of eyes
  • Swelling of body parts (usually in Anaphylaxis)

How are allergies diagnosed (confirmed)?

While most allergies can be identified on the basis of a clinical history and physical examination of the patient, your doctor may recommend a particular skin or blood test to find out if the blood levels of “IgE” antibodies are abnormally high in your blood.

How are allergies treated?

The treatment or therapy of allergy can be further subdivided into the following categories:

Medical / clinical treatment: Prescribed or recommended by a doctor, this type of treatment consists of a course of some prescription or OTC (over the counter) medicines, generally known as “Anti-Histamines” (anti-allergic drugs).

Natural or preventive therapy: It is believed that the best way of treating allergy is to prevent it in the first place. Accordingly, allergy can be avoided or prevented by simple knowing or identifying the substance / factor (allergen) you are allergic to.

Conclusion

All in all, allergy or hypersensitivity is one of the commonest conditions or disorders that virtually affects every single person. Fortunately, it can be easily identified and diagnosed. While various treatments are available, the best course of action is to prevent it by simply avoiding the factor responsible for a specific allergy.