Runny nose, itchiness, watery eyes and sneezing — these are known all too well by those suffering from springtime allergies.
The transition from winter to spring leaves a build-up of snow mould, dirt and dust in the environment while warmer temperatures bring about pollen and smoke, all of which prompt the onset of allergy symptoms.
Dr. Danny Thomas from the Alberta Homeopathic Medical Clinic in St. Albert said these environmental factors can have a long-term impact on someone’s life.
“In the acute stage, it can just be cumbersome because their immune system is constantly under attack,” he said. “If it’s more progressive or chronic, then it’s going to take a toll on their immune system throughout their life, weakening their immune system because they’re constantly under attack or under infection.”
Conventional medical practices often lead people suffering from allergies to the pharmacy to pick up medications like Claritin, Reactin or Benadryl, he said. Although these may work for temporary relief, he said prolonged use is not ideal.
“I try to prevent patients from just reaching over the counter and grabbing antihistamines and things like that,” he said. “It’s just a short-term solution.”
By treating the symptoms, he said the underlying issue – often related to the immune system – is left untreated, which will ensure symptoms continue to appear.
“Ideally, when you treat it, you want to be treating your immune system so you’re lessening this reaction and response,” he said.
Treating the immune system is different for every person, as each individual will have a different medical history, varying reactions to allergens and different triggers.
In order to determine if a reaction is the result of an allergy or an intolerance, several allergy tests can be administered. Typically, an individual with an allergy will have an immediate reaction, while those with an intolerance will have a delayed reaction.
“You can go for what is called IgE testing, which is immediate hypersensitivity, and that basically tells you if you have an allergy,” he said.
There are a handful of other tests used to determine environmental allergies, most of which are done with a simple blood test, he said.
Although someone may be aware of their environmental allergy, it might not be easily avoidable since many allergens are airborne.
“When you’re outside, it’s a little bit harder because you have to avoid things, like whatever your triggers are, like smoke or pollen,” he said.
To prevent symptoms, Thomas said people should avoid their triggers, clean regularly to avoid a build up of dust in the home, be aware of what allergens pets might be tracking into the household and be aware of cleaners being used, as many have irritating chemicals.
Roughly two decades ago, he said children and seniors were the most at risk for forming an environmental allergy as a result of their more-compromised immune systems. That demographic has since changed.
Although these groups are still at risk for developing allergies, healthy adults are also left sneezing, sniffling and rubbing their eyes.
“It’s almost everybody or anybody who develops these types of allergies, whether it’s from laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, hand soap, facial creams, makeup products, things like that,” he said. “More and more harmful chemicals are put into these products and a lot of people are developing allergies.”