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The Malady of Allergy – A Problem No Longer
20 April 2021 | Categories: Uncategorized|
Reviewed by: Dr. Sunil Mehra:
Although we enjoy the climate around us, people with seasonal allergies find themselves dreading the weather change. Every year, Canadians who are allergic to either tree or grass pollen, experience itchy eyes, coughing or sneezing, that hamper their daily lives. Allergic reactions have been increasing worldwide with approximately 20–25% of Canadians being affected every year(1), potentially attributed to factors that include climate change, increased pollution, dietary changes and more prevalent obesity (2). If you are worried about allergic signs including sneezing and itchy eyes this spring, let us provide you a brief overview of its causes, symptoms and preventive measures.
What is Allergy?
Allergy is the body’s response to foreign substances – the allergens. In response, the immune system produces an antibody (Immunoglobulin E) that releases protective chemicals, like histamine, into the bloodstream. Histamine helps the body eliminate allergens, but as a side effect causes symptoms like coughing, itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, itchy skin, or hives. Both hereditary and environmental factors are responsible for predisposition to allergies.
Allergic rhinitis or hay fever is defined as an inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the nose often accompanied by conjunctivitis (that is red, itchy, and/or watery eyes).
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchiness in the nose, eyes and upper palate of mouth
- Reddish, itchy or watery eyes
- Ear fullness and popping
At times, the presentation can mimic a concurrent COVID-19 infection, therefore, anyone with these symptoms should consult their physician and consider COVID-19 testing.
Most allergies are seasonal, but some people experience allergic symptoms all year round. Some of the commonly found allergens in Canada are as below:
A) Pollen: These are fine particles produced by a variety of trees, grass and weeds. In Canada, tree pollen peaks around spring (late April to May), whilst grass and weed pollen peaks in the summer (June to July) and fall (mid-August to October), respectively.
B) Mould: This is a type of fungi caused by excess moisture and humidity, usually growing in poorly ventilated areas like bathrooms and basements.
C) Pet dander: Pets shed flecks of dead skin, especially furry animals. These can float in the air at home and can cause allergy.
D) Dust mites: These microscopic bugs live in one’s home and can be found in stuffed household items including pillows, mattresses, carpets and plush toys.
E) Ragweed: This is a type of pollen, which likes to grow in disturbed soil especially after the summer season until the start of winter. It causes about half of all cases of pollen-associated allergies in North America (3). Recent reports describe the length of the ragweed season to have increased by 27 days in Saskatoon and 25 days in Winnipeg (4).
Seasonal allergies are strongly linked to the infection of nasal air cavities or sinuses and asthma. 80% of people with asthma also concomitantly suffer from allergic rhinitis or sinusitis (2). The frequently overlap of these two conditions can be due to the same allergens which trigger both asthma and seasonal allergies.
The psychological and social impact of allergic rhinitis is equally important as the physical impact. These can include reduced quality of life, depression, emotional issues, poor self-esteem, low productivity fatigue and reduced sexual desires. Nasal stuffiness seems to be at its worst in the early hours of the morning and when lying down to sleep, causing disturbed sleep, snoring, and daytime sleepiness and in turn, decreased productivity at work or at school.
Management of seasonal allergies
According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences journal (Feb’21 edition), across North America, the pollen season is starting 20 days earlier with a higher pollen load, potentially linked to global warming. Hence, it is imperative to consider and fully understand the management of allergy as the problem has significantly aggravated and is hampering people’s lives and stalling economic progress. The Allergy skin test is the gold standard to confirm underlying allergies.
Some preventive measures to tackle allergy include:
- Keeping all windows in the house open to maintain appropriate ventilation, or perhaps use an air conditioner.
- Checking pollen reports and trying to avoid early morning outdoor activities or high windy days, especially when pollens are commonly released (between 6:00-10:00am).
- Avoid contact with animals and prevent pets to stay in the bedroom.
- Remove indoor plants and seek help for gardening to avoid any contact with trees and grass.
- Prefer wooden floors to carpets or rugs in sleeping and living areas.
- Regular infestation sprays and covering mattresses & pillows with mite-proof casings to reduce house dust mite infestation.
- Following COVID-19 protocols by wearing a protective facial covering to help reduce inhalation of allergens.
Some common medications, which may help this condition, include antihistamines, oral and nasal decongestants, corticosteroids and cromolyn. Kamahealth offers antihistamines (Cetrizine, Loratidine and Desloratadine tablets) and steroid nasal decongestants (Nasonnex nasal spray) as options for controlling seasonal allergies. These management options are among the commonly used modalities with a good safety profile, if used in the right way (5). Patients experiencing drug intolerance and significant side effects including excessive sedation and anticholinergic effects are recommended to consult their physicians before continuing the use. Immunotherapy is often very effective for those patients who do not respond well to treatment with medications.
KamaHealth provides you a prescription referral service connecting patients with licensed Canadian pharmacies who are fully authorized by the relevant provincial regulatory bodies. We, at Kamahealth, understand how devastating allergic symptoms can be; affecting life at home, school or at work, and through our products, we wish to help you counter this malady so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful seasons of nature. Looking for more information? Visit our website to learn about the available anti-allergy medications to get your supplies before the spring season blooms.
1. Warrington R, Payton K. Canadian Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Foundation. BioMed Central; 2005.
2. Bousquet J KN, Cruz AA, Denburg J, Fokkens WJ, Togias A, Zuberbier T, Baena‐Cagnani CE, Canonica GW, Van Weel C, Agache I. Allergic rhinitis and its impact on asthma (ARIA) 2008. Allergy. 2008 Apr;63:8-160.
3. Lambelet B, Clot B, Keimer C. Ragweed (Ambrosia) progression and its health risks: will Switzerland resist this invasion? Swiss Medical Weekly. 2005;135(3738).
4. Ziska LH, Makra L, Harry SK, Bruffaerts N, Hendrickx M, Coates F, et al. Temperature-related changes in airborne allergenic pollen abundance and seasonality across the northern hemisphere: a retrospective data analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2019;3(3):e124-e31.
5. Vandenplas O, D’Alpaos V, Van Brussel P. Rhinitis and its impact on work. Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology. 2008;8(2):145-9.
6. Price D, Bond C, Bouchard J, Costa R, Keenan J, Levy ML, et al. International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG) guidelines: management of allergic rhinitis. Primary care respiratory journal. 2006;15(1):58-70.