For millions of people, sneezing, wheezing, runny noses and itchy eyes are just a part of life. But take heart: relief is at hand, whether you need it when pollen flies or year-round.
1. Many allergies have similar symptoms
- If you’re among the thousands of Canadians who suffer from hay fever, you know all about congestion, sneezing and watery eyes.
- Sniffling and hacking aren’t just a springtime problem. They can make you miserable at many different times of the year, depending on your allergies.
- Many molds and mildews shed spores that cause allergies year-round. Dust mites, pet dander, mice and, in cities, cockroaches can also cause persistent problems.
- Beyond your nose, if you’re allergic to substances like nickel, used in watchbands and jewelry, you may develop a rash where the metal touches your skin.
- Severe reactions to foods, or to stings from bees or other insects, can cover you with hives. In the worst-case scenarios, they may even be fatal.
- Allergy symptoms arise because your immune system over-responds to microscopic pollens, molds and other allergy triggers known as allergens.
2. Allergies are related to your immune system
- If you breathe in or touch a particular allergen you are sensitive to, it will combine with a component of your own immune system called an immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody.
- IgE is normally a helpful substance that protects your body against parasites, germs and other foreign invaders.
- If you have allergies, harmless substances like pollen cause IgE to activate specialized mast cells in your nose, eyes or other areas near the irritant.
- As a defense, mast cells then release inflammatory substances. One such substance, histamine, causes congestion, itching, sneezing, hives and other allergy-related symptoms.
3. There are lots of first-step solutions
If you have an allergy, there are plenty of options available to help you get relief, including:
- Antihistamines to relieve sneezing, itching, watery eyes and other symptoms.
- Decongestants to ease nasal congestion.
- Nasal sprays (steroid or cromolyn) to reduce inflammation and prevent allergy attacks.
- Nasal washes to remove mucus from the nose.
- Allergy tests to determine which pollens or molds are causing your allergies.
- Allergy shots, in some cases, are used to desensitize against allergy triggers.
4. You can make simple lifestyle changes for more relief
Besides medications, there are other things you can do to help keep your allergies at bay. try the following:
- Keep an allergy diary, recording the times of day and months of the year when symptoms occur and any foods, plants, pets or other factors that trigger reactions.
- Close the windows at night to keep pollen and molds out.
- Use a central air conditioner equipped with a filter to clean and dry the air.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep mold counts down.
- Take a vacation by the sea. Pollen counts are often lower at the beach.
- Use an emergency alert bracelet or pendant. This is especially true if you’re allergic to certain drugs or latex, have extreme asthma or have suffered anaphylactic shock.
5. You can find extra support
- For further information about allergies, contact the Canadian Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Foundation.
- For local pollen counts, contact The Weather Network or Canoe Weather.
- If you have food allergies, contact Anaphylaxis Canada.
Allergies come in many different forms, but there’s also many kinds of relief. With some medications and lifestyle changes, you could easily keep your allergies under control, and live a life with a lot less sneezing.