With the arrival of good weather a few weeks ago, trees began pollinating in earnest. This process causes many people to experience a variety of symptoms such as a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes and puffy eyelids. If you feel the onset of any of these, chances are you have an allergy.
The most common allergens are:
- Airborne: pollen, dust mites, pet dander, etc.
- Food and medications: peanuts, cow’s milk, eggs, penicillin, etc.
- Contact: metals, dyes, some plants, etc.
- Injected: insect bites and stings, etc.
Some allergens are extremely dangerous. However, if you are an allergy sufferer, you need not be alarmed as most allergens are relatively harmless. Also, you are in good company: recent studies have shown that 20% of people suffer from allergies of one kind or another.
Allergic reactions are extremely widespread, although the symptoms can vary in intensity depending on the person’s age and how severe the allergy is. For certain types, medication may be required during crisis periods. However, there may be situations when even these remedies are insufficient and the person may have to undergo investigations.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system to foreign substances. This reaction occurs when the immune system misidentifies an otherwise harmless substance as an invader and treats is like a dangerous virus. It mobilizes its defensive forces, called mast cells, which release a substance called histamine. This substance is responsible for the symptoms that cause the allergy.
This brief is about one of the airborne type of allergens, namely pollen.
In Québec, the pollination period for pollen-producing trees such as birch and poplar is from April through to the end of June.
Plants produce pollen starting in May and ending around mid-August. Ragweed waits until the end of the season, spoiliing outdoor fun in August and September.
Some tips for allergy-sufferers
- Use an air conditioner with a filter, to cool, filter and dehumidify the air.
- Refrain from outdoor activities between 5 and 10 am, as pollen counts are highest during this period.
- Do not dry laundry on an outdoor clothesline as pollen can cling to the fibres.
- Stay indoors during wet or windy weather.
- Do not keep too many house plants as damp soil can promote mold and mildew.
- Keep car windows closed when driving.
- Ask your partner, friend or housemate to rake the leaves and cut the grass, as these tasks stir up pollen and different types of mold.
- Enclose mattresses, box springs and pillows in zippered, dust-proof covers. Do not use feather pillows or duvets.
- Vacuum on a weekly basis. If you have allergies, try to avoid doing the chore yourself.