With spring on its way and cold and flu season on its way out, you might still have plenty to deal with in preventing breathing problems. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 36 million people in the United States suffer with hay fever – AKA allergic rhinitis – which can put a major damper on the onset of nice weather. We might be looking forward to more sun and the blooming of the trees and flowers, but must we suffer along with it?
If you have COPD or another chronic lung condition, allergy season can actually be dangerous for you if you them. The symptoms of allergies can send you into an exacerbation, caused by drainage from your sinuses down into your lungs. Extra mucus and inflammation occurs, and your doctor may find it necessary to increase the dosage on your medication or prescribed oxygen.
For this reason, besides not wanting to suffer with allergies this season, it's important to try to treat and prevent seasonal allergies as quickly as you can. There are even ways to do it without taking medication, or you can reduce the amount of allergy medicines you will need to take.
How Allergies Work
Our immune systems, when running correctly, are very effective and sophisticated networks with a very specific job. Sometimes, however, it can work a little too well. When foreign particles (pathogens) enter your body, your immune system goes to work to see if they are harmful and shouldn't be there. Antibodies, which are special proteins that reside in our respiratory tract, digestive system and blood stream, inspect these foreign particles. In the case of allergies, these foreign particles are pollen spores. Not everyone's antibodies see pollen as harmful.
If an antibody finds a pathogen it doesn't like, it marks the pathogen as harmful by attaching itself to it. When this happens, the white blood cells are called in and the battle begins. The antibodies also release chemicals to alert our bodies that something is there that shouldn't be, and it needs to get to work in getting rid of it.
Theses chemicals, one of which being histamine, causes irritation, itching, mucus production and tissue swelling in the nose. Your body is working hard to get rid of this “harmful” pathogen, which is why you now have to blow your nose and deal with watery eyes and sneezing.
How to Prevent and Cope
Treat your home as a sanctuary. We can't control the outdoors, but we can work to control what enters our homes. Take your shoes off before you enter and keep your jacket in a closet or foyer, away from the rest of the house. Instead of opening windows, use the AC or the recirculate option in the car. In general, avoid bringing in objects that have been outside, or rinse them off before you do.
When you come inside for the day, change your clothes and take a shower if possible, or at least wash your hair before you go to bed. Put your clothes in a hamper with a lid, or put them straight in the washing machine.
Watch the weather and the pollen count each day. On days when the pollen count is particularly high, try to stay indoors or be sure to take your allergy medicine before your symptoms even start.
Start taking herbs that are known to help prevent allergies. Talk to your doctor about this option before you start taking them. You will need to start taking them a few weeks before allergy season hits to make sure they are in your system. Herbs usually have little to no side effects and might be a better alternative to taking an allergy medicine every day. The herbs that are known to help with allergies are Butterbur and Stinging Nettle.
Use a saline spray to clean out your nose on days when the pollen count is high. You should be able to get rid of most of the pollen spores in your nose before the antibodies have a chance to start attacking them. A nasal spray will also keep your nose moist and lessen irritation.