Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What Allergy and Asthma Sufferers Need to Know for Fall

An estimated 35 million Americans suffer from allergies. For those with fall allergies, three triggers typically occur – ragweed, indoor allergens and infections.

“During the summer, people experience the lowest incidence of allergies and asthma so they feel better and stop taking their allergy medications...” said David Rosenstreich, M.D., director of the allergy and immunology division at Montefiore Medical Center. “If allergy sufferers make the mistake of waiting until after their symptoms are in full swing, it’s much harder to stop the allergic reaction than to prevent it from even beginning.”

One of the biggest culprits for fall allergies is ragweed. In the fall, ragweed releases pollen into the air and this continues until frost kills the plant closer to winter. Most prevalent in the Eastern and Midwest states, ragweed causes an allergic reaction commonly called hay fever and results in symptoms that include itchy eyes, nose and throat, sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, tearing or dark circles under the eyes.

An allergy symptom is the result of the immune system overreacting. It mistakes the pollen or other allergy trigger as a foreign invader and attacks it, which leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. The histamine travels through the blood and latches onto histamine receptors on other cells, causing them to swell. This inflammation causes many familiar allergy symptoms.

Another trigger for allergies during the fall is due to people staying indoors more and they are therefore exposed to allergens like pet dander, dust and mold. Several precautions to consider include:

Maintain an allergen free environment at home
• Focus on your bedroom: keep your pets out, eliminate the rug because it collects dust and avoid feather pillows
• Make sure the fireplace is well-ventilated and be careful of any leakage
• Keep basement and bathroom dry to avoid mold growing in these damp areas of the house
• Have your heating system cleaned to avoid dust mites when you first turn on the heat

The third trigger is infections and the flu, which affect the body’s immune system and cause it to release antibodies and histamines to fight them off. The flu vaccine is recommended to help reduce the risk of getting sick, but it’s even more important for people who suffer from asthma or other lung conditions.

“There’s no reason for people with allergies to suffer,” Dr. Rosenstreich said. “As long as you take the proper precautions, you should be able to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and make the most of family time in your home.”

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(*Tests conducted at 0.3 microns)

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