Health Notes: Allergies
By Ellen S. Mullen M.D.
Allergies occur when your body overreacts to a substance that does not cause problems for most people. The most common allergens are pollen from trees, grass and weeds. Mold, animal dander, and dust are also very common allergens.
Pollen is what we are experiencing now. Allergies that occur in April and May are often due to tree pollen. Summertime allergies are often due to grass pollen and fall allergies are often due to weeds. Mold occurs where water tends to collect and is worse during rainy and humid weather. Animal dander are proteins found in the skin, saliva and urine of furry pets. You can be exposed to dander when handling an animal or from house dust that contains dander.
Dust contains many allergens including dust mites. Dust mites are tiny living creatures found in bedding, mattresses, carpeting and upholstered furniture.
Allergy symptoms present themselves in many different ways. Some people will have a runny nose and watery eyes. Oftentimes a person will have itchy eyes, nose and roof of the mouth. Sneezing and stuffy nose may also be present. Ear fullness and popping, dark circles under the eyes and hives are other presenting symptoms.
Your doctor may be able to do allergy testing on you or refer you to a doctor who can. These tests will help you to know what specific allergies you have.
Allergens can be avoided in a variety of ways depending on the allergen. To avoid pollens it is helpful to shower or bathe before bedtime to wash off pollen that may be in your hair or on your skin. Avoid being outside on windy, dry days and keep windows and doors shut.
Mold can be decreased by removing houseplants from in the house as well as cleaning shower curtains, walls and windows that are located in damp areas such as bathrooms. A mixture of chlorine bleach and water will kill mold. It is important to refrain from carpeting areas that are exposed to water and using mold-proof paint instead of wallpaper is helpful.
We’ll have more information on dealing with allergies next month in the second part of our overview.