From the Hilbert College Wellness Center | Fall Allergies

Allergy Season Making You Itch?
Apply a little common knowledge.
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

fallallergiesIt’s fall allergy season again, and time to brush up on our knowledge of how to spot allergies and how to combat them.

The definition of an allergy is a physical condition that occurs after exposure to pollen, bee venom, animal dander, a food, a specific drug, mold, dust, smoke, etc. that causes the body’s immune system to overreact. Symptoms of an allergy may include sneezing, watery eyes, rash, itching and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Allergies and colds often have similar symptoms. Mild allergies can look just like a cold, with coughing, sneezing and watery eyes. The key difference, then, is the duration. A cold will last only about ten to 14 days, while an allergy tends to be chronic or seasonal. In other words, mild allergy symptoms will last until the allergen is removed.

Avoidance sometimes is possible, such as in the cases of a food or bee allergy. Pollen and dust are more difficult to control. For a mild allergic reaction, the main treatment is antihistamines. But for a severe reaction involving anaphylaxis, the common treatment is an epinephrine injection. (The most common form of this is an EpiPen.) For pollen allergy sufferers, the first frost (which kills the pollen producing plants) is often a time to celebrate!

This time of the year, there are also abundant yellow jackets and other kinds of bees. Yellow jackets often live in the ground, so watch your step in grassy areas. If a honey bee stings you, try and scrape off the stinger with a plastic card, and avoid pinching the stinger, as it still contains venom. When you assess the sting, watch for swelling and redness. Severe swelling is a warning sign to get help right away. You may not have much time! Most bee stings are not life threatening, however. In those cases, the best course of action is applying a cold compress. Of course, if this is your first bee sting, keep in mind you may develop an allergic reaction the next time you are stung.

So you don’t have allergies? Not yet, anyway. The longer you live, the higher the probability is that you will develop one. The reason for this is that allergies always begin with exposure to a substance first, without a reaction. The reaction (or overreaction) occurs on the second and subsequent exposures. Therefore, the older you get, the more likely it is that you will be allergic to something. But the acquisition of an allergy is not a given. Take proper care of yourself—with diet, exercise, proper sleep, hygiene, social time, and a generally healthy lifestyle—and you may be able to lessen some of the symptoms.

For more information, visit these Web sites:

Medline Plus (Hayfever):
https://medlineplus.gov/hayfever.html

WebMD (Allergy overview):
http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/allergies-overview

The Free Medical Dictionary (Bee stings):
http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/bee+sting

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