What to take for spring seasonal allergies
Through methodical study and self-experimentation, Dr. Charles Blackley identified that pollen was to blame for allergy symptoms. He collected, identified, and described various pollens and then sure their allergic properties by rubbing them into his eyes or scratching them on his skin. He then noted which ones resulted in redness and itching. This same technique is used in skin prick testing by allergists today.
Inspired by discoveries related to vaccination, Dr.
Leonard Noon and John Freeman prepared doses of pollen extracts for injection in an effort to desensitize patients with allergic rhinitis in the early 1900s. This effective treatment, called allergy immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is still used today.
Antihistamines first became available in the 1940s, but they caused significant sedation. The formulations with fewer side effects that are used today own only been available since the 1980s.
Symptoms noticed, but no cause identified
As scientific advancement was stifled during the Middle Ages, in large part due to the plague, it wasn’t until 900 years later, in 1819, that Dr.
John Bostock published a description of his own seasonal allergies. But he didn’t know what was causing them.
Having suffered from “summer catarrh” since childhood, Bostock persisted in his study of the condition, despite an initial lackluster response from the medical community.
In the nine years between his first and second publications, he found only 28 additional cases consistent with his own seasonal allergy symptoms, which perhaps demonstrates the lower prevalence of the condition at the time. He noted that nobility and the privileged classes were more often afflicted by seasonal allergies. This was thought to be the consequence of wealth, culture and an indoor life.
Societal changes with their roots in the Industrial Revolution, including increased exposure to air pollution, less time spent outdoors, increased pollen counts and improved hygiene, every likely contributed to the increased prevalence of allergies that we continue to see today.
They also helped form the hygiene hypothesis, which states that in part decreased exposure to specific bacteria and infections could be leading to the increase in allergic and autoimmune diseases.
The source of seasonal symptoms at the time was also thought to be caused by the smell of new hay. This led to the coining of the term “hay fever.”
Bostock instead suspected the recurring symptoms were triggered by the summer heat, since his symptoms improved when he spent the summer on the coast. It would later became common for nobility and aristocrats to spend allergy season in coastal or mountain resorts to avoid bothersome symptoms.
How do scientists know how much pollen is in the air?
They set a trap. The trap — generally a glass plate or rod coated with adhesive — is analyzed every few hours, and the number of particles collected is then averaged to reflect the particles that would pass through the area in any 24-hour period. That measurement is converted to pollen per cubic meter. Mold counts work much the same way.
A pollen count is an imprecise measurement, scientists confess, and an arduous one — at the analysis stage, pollen grains are counted one by one under a microscope. It is also highly time-consuming to discern between types of pollen, so they are generally bundled into one variable.
Given the imprecise nature of the measurement, entire daily pollen counts are often reported simply as low, moderate or high.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology provides up-to-date pollen counts for U.S. states.
The symptoms of allergic rhinitis may at first feel love those of a freezing. But unlike a freezing that may incubate before causing discomfort, symptoms of allergies generally appear almost as soon as a person encounters an allergen, such as pollen or mold.
Symptoms include itchy eyes, ears, nose or throat, sneezing, irritability, nasal congestion and hoarseness. People may also experience cough, postnasal drip, sinus pressure or headaches, decreased sense of smell, snoring, sleep apnea, fatigue and asthma, Josephson said.
[Oral Allergy Syndrome: 6 Ways to Avoid an Itchy, Tingling Mouth]
Many of these symptoms are the immune system’s overreaction as it attempts to protect the vital and sensitive respiratory system from exterior invaders. The antibodies produced by the body hold the foreign invaders out, but also cause the symptoms characteristic of allergic responses.
People can develop hay fever at any age, but most people are diagnosed with the disorder in childhood or early adulthood, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms typically become less severe as people age.
Often, children may first experience food allergies and eczema, or itchy skin, before developing hay fever, Josephson said.
«This then worsens over the years, and patients then develop allergies to indoor allergens love dust and animals, or seasonal rhinitis, love ragweed, grass pollen, molds and tree pollen.»
Hay fever can also lead to other medical conditions. People who are allergic to weeds are more likely to get other allergies and develop asthma as they age, Josephson said. But those who get immunotherapy, such as allergy shots that assist people’s bodies get used to allergens, are less likely to develop asthma, he said.
Older than the dinosaurs, as wide as the world
Fossilized specimens of pollen granules own been found predating dinosaurs and alongside Neanderthals.
And, sinus and asthma symptoms and treatments are documented throughout history and across the globe. People just didn’t know exactly how to treat the symptoms, or exactly what was causing them.
For example, over 5,000 years ago, the Chinese used the berries of the horse tail plant, ma huang (Ephedra distachya), to relieve congestion and decrease mucous production associated with “plant fever” — a condition affecting people during the drop.
In Egypt, the “Papyrus Ebers,” written around 1650 B.C., recommended over 20 treatments for cough or difficulty breathing, including honey, dates, juniper and beer.
Although Homer’s “Iliad” describes the noisy noise of breathing in battle as “asthma,” Aretaeus of Cappadocia of the second century A.D. is credited with the first clinical description more consistent with modern understanding of this condition. He wrote of those who suffered that:
“They open the mouth since no home is sufficient for their respiration, they breathily standing, as if desiring to draw in every the air which they possibly can inhale… the neck swells with the inflation of the breath, the precordia (chest wall) retracted, the pulse becomes little and dense,” and if the symptoms persist, the patient “may produce suffocation after the form of epilepsy.”
By the time Columbus landed, indigenous populations in Central and South American were utilizing ipecacuanha, a root found in Brazil with expectorant and emetic properties and balsam, which is still used in some freezing remedies today.
Coca and tobacco leaves, used medicinally by the Incas, were later exported to Europe for additional experimentation for the treatment of rhinitis and asthma.
Aside from the “plant fever” described in China, the first written description of seasonal respiratory symptoms is credited to Rhazes, a Persian scholar, around 900 A.D. He described the nasal congestion that coincided with the blooming of roses, termed “rose fever.”
Pollen counts likely to grow
Though recognized by ancient civilizations, seasonal allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma own only increased in prevalence in recent history and are on the rise, now affecting 10 to 30 percent of the world’s population.
Fueled by warmer temperatures and increased carbon dioxide levels, pollen seasons are longer, and pollen counts are higher.
Numerous experts believe this will worsen in the coming years due in large part to climate change.
What can you do? Often, those who are allergic need a multifaceted approach.
Consider a visit to see a board certified allergist/immunologist. She or he can assist you determine which specific pollens maybe the source of your symptoms.
Minimize exposure to allergens. Track pollen counts.
When pollen counts are high, hold the windows closed at home and in the car. After spending time outdoors, shower and change clothing to prevent ongoing exposure to pollen.
Find out what allergens are causing your symptoms. Take note of when your symptoms start by making a note in a calendar or planner.
Take a pro-active approach to treating symptoms. Starting medications before symptoms develop can prevent symptoms from getting out of control. This can also decrease the quantity of medication needed overall. Endless acting non-sedating antihistamines are helpful for itching and sneezing.
Nasal corticosteroid sprays are more helpful for stuffy noses.
Explore the role of immunotherapy with your doctor. Immunotherapy changes the immune response through istration of little regimented doses of allergens over time. This induces a state of tolerance, eventually helping people become less allergic over time.
While pollen season is coming, taking a multifaceted approach can provide much needed relief from the symptoms that own plagued humankind throughout the millennia.
Itchy eyes, a congested nose, sneezing, wheezing and hives: these are symptoms of an allergic reaction caused when plants release pollen into the air, generally in the spring or drop. Numerous people use hay fever as a colloquial term for these seasonal allergies and the inflammation of the nose and airways.
But hay fever is a misnomer, said Dr.
Jordan Josephson, an ear, nose and throat doctor and sinus specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
«It is not an allergy to hay,» Josephson, author of the book «Sinus Relief Now» (Perigee Trade, 2006), told Live Science. «Rather, it is an allergy to weeds that pollinate.»
Doctors and researchers prefer the phrase allergic rhinitis to describe the condition. More than 50 million people experience some type of allergy each year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
In 2017, 8.1% of adults and 7.7% of children reported own allergic rhinitis symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Worldwide, between 10 and 30% of people are affected by allergic rhinitis, Josephson said.
In 2019, spring arrived early in some parts of the country and later in others, according to the National Phenology Network (NPN). Spring brings blooming plants and, for some, lots of sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and runny noses.
According to NPN data, spring reared its head about two weeks early in areas of California, Nevada and numerous of the Southern and Southeastern states. Much of California, for example, is preparing for a brutal allergy season due to the large quantity of winter rain. On the other hand, spring ranged from about one to two weeks tardy in the Northwest, the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic U.S. [Watch a Massive ‘Pollen Cloud’ Explode from Late-Blooming Tree]
The most common allergen is pollen, a powder released by trees, grasses and weeds that fertilize the seeds of neighboring plants.
As plants rely on the wind to do the work for them, the pollination season sees billions of microscopic particles fill the air, and some of them finish up in people’s noses and mouths.
Spring bloomers include ash, birch, cedar, elm and maple trees, plus numerous species of grass. Weeds pollinate in the tardy summer and drop, with ragweed being the most volatile.
The pollen that sits on brightly colored flowers is rarely responsible for hay fever because it is heavier and falls to the ground rather than becoming airborne. Bees and other insects carry flower pollen from one flower to the next without ever bothering human noses.
Mold allergies are diverse.
Mold is a spore that grows on rotting logs, dead leaves and grasses. While dry-weather mold species exist, numerous types of mold thrive in moist, rainy conditions, and release their spores overnight. During both the spring and drop allergy seasons, pollen is released mainly in the morning hours and travels best on dry, warm and breezy days.