Are Seasonal Allergies Connected to the Immune System? Vol.1

Allergies are among the most common chronic health conditions in the world. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), more than 50 million Americans experience allergies every year.
Allergies are annoying

What Causes Allergies?

Allergies (or hay fever) occur when the immune system misidentifies a foreign substance–such as pollen, dander, or dust–as harmful and launches a counter-attack. This overreaction results in the release of antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE), which are meant to attack the allergen, but in doing so produce histamine, which causes symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, wheezing, coughing and sneezing.

Contributing factors are….

1) Stress

When we experience stress, our bodies release a chemical called histamine, which happens to be the same chemical released during an allergic reaction. 

2) Low Immunity

A study conducted by the Institut Pasteur and published in Science found that microbiota (gut flora) may have a role in preventing allergies. The microbes, which live in our intestines, contribute to a wide variety of important functions, including digestion, vitamin synthesis, and immune system defense. Researchers believe this study demonstrates that the presence of microbes specifically blocks the immune cells responsible for triggering allergies, thus reduced microbiota can lower the effectiveness of the immune system and trigger allergies. 

3) Climate Change

According to the AAFA, climate change is causing a significant increase to the risk factors for seasonal allergies. Extreme weather changes, such as heat waves and droughts, result in ground-level ozone, which contributes to urban smog. As this cycle repeats, the pollen count increases, and the growing season lengthens, creating greater exposure risks to the allergens that trigger asthma and allergic reactions.

How Do You Know It’s Allergies?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) caused by seasonal allergies include:  

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
  • Runny nose (usually a thin, clear discharge)
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Itchy nose, eyes, ears, or mouth
  • Swelling around the eyes

But these symptoms share similarities with the common cold, which means it’s not always easy to determine the source. 

How long it lasts.
When the immune system reacts to a cold (as a result of a virus), symptoms should begin to disappear after a few weeks, while allergies can last days to months, depending on the length of exposure to the allergen.

Additional symptoms. 
Cold symptoms can sometimes include a low-grade fever and/or body aches, and allergies don’t. 

Pay attention to mucus. 
While both conditions include a runny nose, allergy mucus tends to run clear and thin, while yellow or green mucus is indicative of a cold.

As always, it’s important to address concerns or questions with your healthcare professional. 
Find out on our blog for Ways to Manage Allergy Symptoms.