Some of us see the spring season as a beautiful trap. It seduces us out into the sunshine, but it also conceals an unknown hazard – pollen.

The real problem, however, is not the pollen. It’s the body’s response to it that causes the problem. Around 30% of individuals have an overactive immune system that protects them from pollen by mistake. This is known as an allergic response.

There are medicines that can help with the unpleasant symptoms, but understanding how an allergic reaction works may help you figure out which ones you should store.

What Is an Allergic Reaction?

When the body’s immune system reacts to something that is generally safe, such as pollen, animal dander, a meal, or a drug, an allergic response occurs.

The body’s response to pollens may or may not be related to one type or many. Tree, grass, and weed pollens, as well as molds, are the main offenders here, and they’re in the air at all times. (ragweed is a fan of the fall).

However, they don’t really reveal anything because the pollen is still in the air. These drifting fluffballs are actually seeds. The dust is tiny or smaller—sometimes microscopic—in terms of size. It’s essentially billions of plant-world sperm released by the millions to fertilize any female plants it may come into touch with. Unfortunately, we humans get in its way.

What Happens During an Allergic Reactions

An allergic reaction is the sum of a series of events that follow one another:

  1. You’re being subjected to something that your immune system doesn’t tolerate (pollen, in this case).
  2. The system generates specialized, histamine-filled “mast” blood cells that burst open and distribute the histamine throughout your blood and tissues.
  3. The blood vessels are dilated (made larger) by histamine, allowing more mast cells, as well as antibodies and other disease fighters, to reach where they need to be. It also promotes body secretions (giving histamine easy travel and aiding the removal of germs) and activates inflammation, which is intended to destroy the invader.

The process is much the same as in a cold, except that there isn’t an invader to kill in an allergic reaction. However, because there is no invader to attack in a hypersensitivity response, all the histamine does is cause nasal and sometimes bronchial edema as a result of increased blood flow; watery eyes and nose as a result of increased secretions; and unpleasant itching, sneezing, and general malaise due on inflammation.

What About Rash/Anaphylaxis?

Histamines can also cause tiny blood vessels to leak and form lumpy, puffy skin rashes (urticaria) known as hives.

There are a few causes for the severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. One of them is histamines, which can be found in certain fruits and vegetables. Anaphalaxis is highly unusual (but not impossible) with seasonal allergies.

What Should I Do If I’m Never Been Allergic?

You may have had a continual exposure to a potential allergen for years without issue. Then, for some reason (we’re not sure why), after the second or maybe the hundredth exposure, your body will declare it an enemy. And from then on, you’ll be allergic. It’s true that some kids outgrow their allergies, but don’t bet on it. In general, if your body doesn’t like something after enough time has passed, it will never like it again.

What Are the Best Allergy Treatment Options?

When you can, take precautions to avoid breathing in the pollen. You could also try natural treatments. Nasal irrigation is a popular method of treatment.

The most popular two medical treatments are:

  1. Over-the-counter medications, many of which were previously only available by prescription and are now available without a prescription.
  2. Immunotherapy—a series of injections with increasing dosages of the allergen(s) you’re allergic to, with the goal of reversing your allergy.

You may now comprehend why antihistamines are frequently the first medical line of defense against allergies, as you know how allergies work. However, your pharmacy is most likely to be filled with a variety of antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroids. After that comes the prescription drugs. So in the following installment, I’ll help you sort through all of your choices so you can determine which one(s) to try.

Do you have allergies that are seasonal? When do they usually manifest?

Photo credit: something.from.nancy

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