Spring allergies or seasonal allergies are reactions to airborne particles (usually pollen) that appear only during specific moments during the year.
We do have some serious problem with seasonal allergies in some areas of Pakistan. Many of our provinces report high concentrations of pollen in the air each spring, which leads to very frequent cases of pollen allergies. Islamabad, in particular has experienced extremely high levels of pollen and has also been called the allergy capital of the world.
Naturally, with so many people suffering from allergies at the same time things can get overwhelming. Hospitalizations are not uncommon and the healthcare system is under-prepared to deal with such numbers. To face this situation without having to attend an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) this article will recommend a few ways to prevent the worst aspects of allergies and/or taking care of yourself and provide useful information about spring allergies.
Seasonal allergies are usually categorized based on the airborne particle that causes them. The following are the most relevant type of allergies found in Pakistan.
Tree pollen: In places like Islamabad, this is the main cause of allergic reactions during spring. This is because of the large population of trees like the Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), a common species of tree that grows on a great variety of soil.
Grass pollen: This represents a much smaller contribution to the total number of pollen grains present in the air. Colder weather and rain is usually enough to reduce their presence significantly.
Ragweed pollen: Most of the time, this is an even smaller contribution to the total amount of pollen in the air. However, this particular type of pollen appears earlier, travels much further and can survive harsh weather, so it remains for a longer period of time.
Symptoms of Allergies
The most common symptoms include:
Runny or clogged nose
Itching eyes, nose, and throat
Watering of eyes
Difficulty in breathing
Conjunctivitis (an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelids, causing red-rimmed eyes).
Some people with pollen allergy develop asthma, a serious respiratory condition.
Decreased sense of smell and taste
Swollen skin below the eyes
Poor sleep quality
Managing Spring Allergies
Prevention: In days when the pollen concentration is high, we recommend you to
Stay inside on windy days
Avoid activities that may expose you to a lot of pollen (like lawn mowing)
Remove your clothes and have a bath as soon as you get indoors
Don’t dry your clothes outside
Using some kind of mask to protect your nose and mouth while outside is helpful
If possible, use specialized filters and vacuums to keep the inside of your home free of pollen (HEPA equipment)
Avoid any irritants that may be around you (dust, tobacco smoke, fresh tar or paint, perfume, flowers, carpets, etc)
Keep your windows shut
Wash your hands and face regularly
Antihistamines are excellent to treat mild allergies. Benadryl is a common and effective over-the-counter medication. Decongestants like pseudoephedrine are recommended to deal with nasal congestion. However, some products combine both types of drugs for a more effective treatment.
Nasal irrigation is a good homemade treatment. It involves squeezing a 0,9% saline solution up your nose. This is to clear your nose from any traces of pollen. To avoid any kind of infection, many recommend boiling the water before adding the salt and letting it cool before using it.
There are a few dietary supplements with proven positive effects over allergic reactions. Spirulina, tinospora cordifolia and butterbur are excellent examples. They help alleviate most nasal symptoms.
Eating pineapples is also recommended for people with seasonal allergies. This fruit contains an enzyme called bromelain, it works as an anti-inflammatory factor and helps by improving breathing.
Eat more broccoli, cauliflower, green tea, and citrus fruits. These foods are rich in a compound called quercetin which makes allergic reactions softer.
Essential oils are a popular in-home treatment. Peppermint, eucalyptus and frankincense are known to help with all the nasal symptoms.
If your symptoms get too severe or are not alleviated by any of these methods, then it may be better to consult an ENT doctor. Most health agencies still consider avoiding allergens (pollen, dust, etc) as the best way to prevent seasonal allergies, so it should be consider as important as any home remedy.