It’s definitely spring here in BC, and I can’t imagine anywhere prettier to experience it, with the bright palette of flowers popping up out of the ground, birds announcing their presence, and trees transforming from bare to busting with fresh green leaves. Everywhere we look we’re reminded of the wonder of new beginnings.
Yet the wonder is lost on many people for whom these warmer days also mean the arrival of dreaded allergy season. Itchy eyes, stuffy nose, puffy eyes, constant sneezing… no one will argue that it’s fun. And even though things got started early this year thanks to a mild winter, April and May are typically peak times for pollen across the province.
So, for those of you battling seasonal allergies, this post is dedicated to helping you reduce the severity of your symptoms so you can get on with living your life to the fullest. Let’s turn hay fever into spring fever!
Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, affects millions of Canadians every year, resulting in them experiencing mild to severe discomfort, fatigue, poor concentration, reduced work productivity, less enjoyment of leisure time, and much general frustration. It is most commonly produced by environmental factors (such as pollen and fungal spores), but genetic, dietary, and psychological factors can also play a part in its development.
Essentially, hay fever is caused by your immune system overreacting to airborne pollen particles as they enter the eyes, nose, or lungs. The white blood cells that normally work to protect your immune system from foreign “invaders” create antibodies called IgE’s to train the body to recognize the “invader” and protect you from it the next time it comes around. This is handy when dealing with bacteria and viruses, but not with tree pollen or dog hair. In short, when a foreign matter enters the system, the IgE’s communicate the message to some cells called mast cells that the body is under threat and an immune attack is launched by releasing chemicals into the affected area… most notoriously, a chemical called histamine.
Histamine, once released into the body, causes symptoms very similar to that of the common cold: runny eyes and nose; sneezing and coughing; itchy eyes, nose, and mouth; sore or itchy throat; congestion; headaches…
While it seems that some people are predisposed to hay fever, it is possible to reduce the frequency and severity of allergy symptoms, even get the symptoms under control without the use of over-the-counter medications. Stay tune for the next blog post.