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Published: June 30, 2014
Andrew Murphy, MD, FAAAAI, Allergy Chief
Chester County Hospital
An estimated 36 million Americans are keeping their tissue boxes close at hand with the peak of the allergy season upon us. The budding trees, grass and weeds mark another battle against sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and congestion for allergy sufferers.
Allergies are physiological reactions caused when the immune system reacts to a specific foreign substance (allergen), such as pollen or mold spores. Many trees, grasses and weeds contain small and light pollen that are easily carried by the wind, causing allergy symptoms to flare up in the spring.
The human body is designed to ward off detrimental "enemies," such as viruses or bacteria, but in some instances it defends itself against relatively harmless substances such as pollen and dust. The immune system protects itself by releasing or producing certain chemicals called histamines, cytokines and leukotrienes, which tend to support what the system is trying to accomplish overall (i.e., neutralizing the foreign substancer) but in the process creating unpleasant (or in extreme cases, life-threatening) reactions in the allergic person.
Reactions could be:
One of the best ways to help prevent allergy attacks is to use a medication prescribed by your primary care physician or an allergist when the allergy season begins. With continued use of medication and avoidance of potential triggers, allergic symptoms can be minimized. For those with more persistent symptoms, allergy vaccine therapy may be the solution.
In addition to timing medications, the following tips to help allergy sufferers find some relief this season:
If you do not feel relief when using an antihistamine and avoiding common allergens, or if you seem more dramatically affected than just a runny nose, itchy eyes or sneezing, please contact your physician for further options.
Dr. Andrew Murphy is Allergy Chief at Chester County Hospital, and Asthma, Allergy and Clinical Immunology of Chester County.
This article was published as part of the Daily Local News Medical Column series which appears every Monday. It has been reprinted by permission of the Daily Local News.
Last Updated: 6/30/2014