Spring — the season of renewal ... and allergies.
A dry winter, windy weather, warming temperatures — the elements seem to be conspiring to turn the sweet season into the sneeze season, punctuated with watery eyes, runny noses and scratchy throats.
Don’t worry. All this misery is just our body’s way of protecting us against the siege from pollen ... and going a little overboard.
“Allergies are the immune system run amok,” said Dr. Jennifer Dumbolton, DO, with Rim Country Family Care. Dumbolton was the guest speaker at the April 2 Lunch & Learn at the Payson Regional Medical Center’s Senior Circle.
As miserable as it seems most people are, the doctor said on average only about 20 percent of the population gets allergies. But then she added, there might be more people in the Rim Country suffering from allergies than the average.
A susceptibility to allergies can be transmitted from parent to child — if one parent has allergies, the child has a 50 percent chance of also having allergies; if both parents have allergies, and the child has a 75 percent chance.
“Allergens are everywhere,” Dumbolton said. They attach to a specific type of cell in our bodies — these cells are mostly in our air passages — and then the body responds, fighting to be rid of the allergens.
The response can be mild to severe. “You will have no reaction to your first encounter with the allergen,” Dumbolton said.
Dealing with allergies
The most common allergens are pollen, animal dander, dust mites, insect stings, molds, metals, foods and cockroaches. Foods that most frequently cause allergies are milk, nuts, eggs and shellfish. Some people are also allergic to latex and fragrances.
The doctor said the best way to treat allergies begins with avoidance or at least reducing exposure to your triggers. If pollen is the problem, consider wearing a mask when it is especially windy. Have a filtration system installed with your heating and cooling sources. Wash your pets regularly and avoid carpeting.
The medical treatments available include over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines; steroids; and shots for a specific allergy.
Dumbolton said the allergy shots can take a long time to work and cited a case with which she was personally familiar. She worked in pediatrics at one point and it was located right next to the facility’s allergy specialist. There was a young girl who was mad about horses, and terribly allergic to them. It took three years of shots to address her specific allergy before she could be around her beloved horses.
The doctor said it is sometimes beneficial to know exactly what you are allergic to, but it is not something high on her list of things to do to deal with the problem.
Those who know they have severe allergic reactions to such things as bee stings, peanuts, shellfish — reactions that could turn into anaphylactic shock — should have an EpiPen with them at all times as well as at their home, in their car and at their work place. The doctor said should a reaction require an EpiPen injection, the individual should immediately get to an emergency room following the shot.