Why do we experience allergic reactions to pollen?
It never fails, the moment spring shows up in Southcentral many begin to experience allergic reactions. As we dig out of winter, Mother Nature comes to life and the world around us begins blooming, unfortunately that means sneezing for the more than 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The most common allergic disease? Hay fever, an allergy caused by pollen or dust.
The answer to how allergies form and why it affects some more the others lies in our immune system and how it receives information from the environment. Every day our immune system is working to protect us from foreign invaders along with disposing our body of ill or defective cells, in what is described as a complex process by the organization Fight The Cause of Allergy.
During this process, your body can mistakenly identify a harmless substance like pollen as dangerous, prompting your immune system to develop antibodies to neutralize the threat. And with pollen, that mistaken threat is increased significantly due to the amount of exposure we are introduced to during the spring. Thanks to the excellent immunological memory of our bodies, like clockwork each year, pollen and other things our body mistakenly identifies as threats set off a wave of symptoms.
That's currently what many across Southcentral are likely experiencing, as spring comes to life one more.
Although we did see a brief return to winter, recent reports from the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Center of Alaska highlight the growing pollen count that Anchorage will see as spring takes hold across the region. The most recent pollen and air quality report shows that trees in the poplar family are the main culprit this week, with levels on the moderate side.
What does this mean for Alaskans? Unfortunately, it's likely not good news, especially considering that the state is home to many of the trees that the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, or AAFA, considers to be the worst type of trees for allergy sufferers. Symptoms typically include not only sneezing, but nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy throat and eyes, along with wheezing.
With the "second spring" likely to stick around, many who usually have allergy problems that haven't seen an yet this year will likely begin to experience symptoms within the coming weeks.
If you find yourself coming down with typical allergy symptoms, allergists recommend taking steps to reduce reactions. The AAFA states that the best way to reduce allergic reactions is through the following actions:
- Limit your outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.
- Keep windows closed during pollen season.
- Start taking allergy medication before pollen season begins.
- Bathe and shampoo your hair daily BEFORE going to bed.
- Wash bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat.
- Limit close contact with pets that spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Change and wash clothes worn during outdoor activities.
- Dry your clothes in a clothes dryer, not on an outdoor line.
While taking these actions won't necessarily prevent allergies through the season, it could limit how severe they become as you head outdoors and enjoy the warmer weather.
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