The Season of Allergies and Sneezing

As the weather warms up, we are now reaching the season of allergies and sneezing.  As things get warmer and the world awakes from its vernal sleep, you will no doubt start to notice it seems like every one you run across is complaining of allergies, and sneezing, and getting watery eyes, and having sinus headaches.  As the poet T. S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month.”  I guess old Tom had allergies too.

Why do allergic reactions increase in the spring?

The reason why allergies tend to kick up as the weather improves is clear.  Basically, it comes down to the birds and bees, or more accurately, the trees that take the warmer weather as a cue to start mating in the way that only trees can, by filling the air with their spores. 

The most common cause for allergies that pop up in the spring is pollen.  Even if you are not sensitive to most types of pollen, you may find that in the spring you get allergies because most every kind of tree is spitting pollen into the air.  If you live in a particularly woodsy area, then every spring you have probably noticed a greenish or white dust covering your car—this is pollen. 

If you live in rural areas, all it takes is a bit of a wind and your town might find itself covered in the many allergens that get kicked up into the air as crops get harvested.

Also, not only is their more pollen in the air, but we find ourselves more exposed to it and other allergens, because the warm weather brings us out into the open as well.  Even if your allergies are not season in the sense of being related to pollen, your increased outdoor activity may expose you to more allergens than usual, thus causing a pseudo-seasonal reaction.

What is an allergy, exactly?

When you get an allergic reaction, what is actually happening is that your body is overcorrecting to a foreign body that it believes to be a harmful agent.  That is the connection between allergies and sneezing.  Your body senses something in your system it does not recognize, so it reacts the same way it would if you get a virus in your system, it tries to expel it or fight it off.  Therefore, your body tries to sneeze it out, or send more aid to the area from the immune system. 

It is all just a massive overreaction to what your body does not recognize.  This is the reason why you are likely to have allergic reactions the first summer when you move to a new city.  In a new city, your body encounters a whole host of organisms it may not be able to quite make sense of.  Often, by the second summer your reaction will not be as severe because your body has gotten habituated to many of these organisms.

What can I do to keep from suffering too much from my seasonal allergic reactions?

Here is where modern medicine has a strong role to play.  If you go to your GP, she will typically give you the choice of either trying to figure out exactly what allergen causes your reactions, or simply getting a prescription for an allergy medicine that will probably keep you from having a reaction.

Figuring out exactly what your allergies are involves an extensive test in which a lab will expose you to a series of possible allergens to see if you have a reaction.  Unless you have an important reason for wanting to know—such as your reactions are so severe that you want to make sure you avoid this allergen—then you probably will just want to settle for the allergy medicine.

With proper medications, however, you could be one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have to worry about allergies and sneezing every time the weather starts warming.




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