Seasonal Allergy Attack: Asthma, Dermatitis, and Eczema
Over sixty million people in the United States alone are expected to have seasonal allergies, and with increased pollutants in the air, the number is set to increase. Alongside adults, nearly 40% of children in the US are also affected by seasonal allergies. Simply put, seasonal allergies are those symptoms of allergy that are commonly experienced during specific periods in the year. Most seasonal allergies are linked to pollen, and due to its high concentration in the air during the spring season, the period is also known as allergy season.
Though springtime sees the maximum incidences of seasonal allergy attacks, it is not uncommon for people to experience symptoms even in the fall. Various plant species release pollen at different periods, and allergy symptoms coincide with these pollination cycles. While it is far more unlikely for individuals to experience seasonal allergy attacks in the winter, allergies can be caused by indoor allergens like dust, dander, and mold. In this article, we look at the nature of, the causes, the symptoms, and tips on how to stop allergies. We also look into some severe aspects of seasonal allergic disorders like asthma, dermatitis, and eczema.
What Is an Allergy?
Allergies are bodily reactions initiated by the immune system when it wrongly identifies a particular substance as invasive and harmful. These substances are called allergens. When you come in contact with these allergens, your immune system goes into overdrive and produces several inflammatory chemicals such as histamine, prostaglandins, and bradykinin. These chemicals are responsible for rashes, an increase in body or local temperature, sneezing and itchiness in the nose (allergic rhinitis), and more severe symptoms such as chest congestion, asthma, and difficulty in breathing.
Causes of Seasonal Allergies
Pollen is the leading cause of seasonal allergies in most people. The immune system can react adversely to pollen present in the air and result in an allergy attack. Seasonal allergies caused by pollen in summer are also known as hay fever. Despite a connecting link between the underlying problem of all seasonal allergies, the causative agent can be different depending on the season. Here are a few common trigger agents for allergy attacks based on the seasons:
- Spring: Springtime is ideal for renewed plant growth and is marked by the pollination season for several flowering trees. Trees pollinated by the aerial route are understood to be the cause of springtime seasonal allergies.
- Summer: Owing to summer being the period when grasses, reeds, and hay are cut, grasses are the primary instigators of allergy attacks. The name hay fever stems from this causative agent.
- Fall: Fall season allergies are particularly severe for those who also have asthma. Most of the pollen is contributed in this season by wild invasive weeds that tend to grow in the colder regions.
- Winter: Though it’s rare to face allergy attacks in winter due to the lack of circulating allergens in the air, indoor causes can trigger allergy attacks. In the more polluted parts of the world, winter allergies are not uncommon due to dust settling closer to the ground, instead of being taken up to the higher reaches of the atmosphere by warmer air like in other seasons. Indoor seasonal allergy attacks are primarily caused by dust, pet dander, and certain varieties of mold.
Symptoms of Allergy Attacks
Some common seasonal allergy attack symptoms are:
- Incessant sneezing
- Runny nose
- Itchiness in the nose/ eyes/ throat and ears (pruritus)
Serious symptoms of seasonal allergy attack are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest congestion
- Severe cough and wheezing-
- Difficulty in breathing
- High fever
Diagnosis of Seasonal Allergies
The diagnosis of seasonal allergies is quite straightforward and often does not require major or complicated testing. However, some of the causative factors might have to be diagnosed, and skin tests come in handy for this purpose. Seasonal allergies can be determined by the time of appearance of the symptoms and their disappearance. Following a complete physical exam, your doctor might prescribe conventional allergy management drugs.
How to Stop Allergies and Other Summer Allergy Tips
The old saying prevention is better than cure, may sound trite, but is still highly relevant to most illnesses including seasonal allergies. Avoiding the allergen has always been the frontline strategy of dealing with allergies. It would be wise to wear a mask outside if it’s allergy season. You could also place within your house air purifiers and use air conditioners with an effective air filter. Avoiding areas that are known to bear vegetation that can trigger your allergies is another important spring allergy tip.
In case you do come down with an allergy attack, several medical treatments, most of them over the counter, are available to you. Decongestants and antihistamines can help to deal with your symptoms. The only catch with these drugs is that they can induce sleep, make you irritable, and cause a lack of focus for a small period. Though available over the counter, these drugs are best taken under the guidance and supervision of your physician.
If you or anyone around you suffer from asthma, you must know that asthma attacks are very common during certain seasons. Those who suffer from both seasonal allergies and asthma are prone to have more severe allergy attacks and some of their allergy attacks are capable of turning into asthma attacks. Asthma even in general is affected by climatic and environmental factors such as relative humidity and temperature.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is an inflammatory condition that can affect both the lungs and the airways. The disease causes an increased production of fluids like mucus and results in severe swelling of the lining of the lungs and the airways. This results in the following symptoms:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Chest congestion and wheezing
- Chest tightness
Severe symptoms of asthma can include:
- Inability to speak except in short gasping bursts
- Sweating and gasping
- Blue discoloration of the extremities
- Altered state of consciousness
- Hyperventilation (Short and rapid breathing)
- Incessant cough
Asthma has several types which differ based on the causative agent and the disease’s manifestation. Some of the types of asthma are:
- Childhood/Early-Onset Asthma: This type of asthma is seen in children. Nearly one in ten or one in twelve children are thought to suffer from early-onset asthma. This form of the condition is caused by hereditary and genetic factors. This condition is also called intrinsic or non-allergic asthma.
- Adult/Late-Onset Asthma: The development of asthma over a few months due to exposure to an allergen, toxins, or pollutants is called adult-onset or allergic asthma.
- Occupational Asthma: Repeated exposure to allergens and pollutants at the workplace can result in developing occupational asthma. Workers in bakeries, mines, wood shops, and asbestos plants are more likely to develop this condition.
- Seasonal Asthma: This type of asthma is seen or is exacerbated only during specific times of the year due to the presence of seasonal allergens and triggers such as pollen, moisture, or cold.
- Drug-Induced Asthma: Asthma can also develop as a reaction to certain drugs like aspirin and its family of medicines.
- Severe Asthma: Around 5-10% of asthma patients suffer from severe or eosinophilic asthma. Owing to a hyperactive and aggressive immune system, the symptoms of asthma are far more pronounced in these individuals.
Causes and Triggers of Seasonal Asthma
Asthma in people can be exacerbated in different seasons depending on their sensitivity to environmental factors and substances like pollen. Common triggers based on the season are as follows:
- Spring: Pollen, primarily from trees and shrubs.
- Summer: Pollen from grass, hay, and weeds. The relative humidity in the summer months is also higher compared to the rest of the year, this may also be a trigger in certain individuals.
- Fall: Pollen from weeds.
- Winter: Pet dander, dust, mold. Since colder temperatures have a constricting effect on blood vessels and tissues, they too can adversely affect asthma.
Management of Seasonal Asthma
As said for conventional allergies, it is always better to avoid your triggers during allergy season. Asthma attacks however are not always preventable, and medical management of the attack becomes imperative. Some available options are as follows:
- Inhaled drugs: Drugs dispersed in an aerosol form are integral to the management of asthma. Beta-2 agonists like salbutamol and corticosteroids like budecort come in handy in the treatment of asthma attacks.
- Oral medication: Certain drugs like mucolytics, bronchodilators, and antihistamines can aid the reduction of the severity of the asthma attack.
- Immunomodulation: Newer techniques like sensitization of the immune system, modifying certain inflammatory chemicals such as leukotrienes, and reducing the overall hyperactivity of the immune system over time has shown great results in several people.
Seasonal Dermatitis and Eczema
While your allergies are most commonly focused around your respiratory tract, a lot of people also experience skin problems such as dermatitis. It is important to make a distinction between hives (urticaria) and dermatitis before we discuss the latter. Hives is a condition that is characterized by raised bumps that are often red or purplish in hue. These bumps are itchy and painful. Hives are also only caused by allergens that are either breathed in or eaten.
On the other hand, dermatitis (atopic) and eczema (contact dermatitis) appear as dry, scaly patches on the skin that can either be raised or flat and most often either result in blisters or in cracking of the skin. While eczema is caused by the skin coming into contact with an allergen, atopic dermatitis, though worsened by allergies is not caused by it. The latter is also more common in infants, while the former can be seen across all age groups.
Causes and Triggers
A variety of causes can cause both atopic dermatitis and eczema. A few of them are listed below:
- Pollen and grass
- Poison oak and ivy
- Heat and cold rashes during summer and winter respectively
- Detergents and emulsifiers in soaps
- Perfumers and fragrances
- Preservatives and additives in cosmetics
- Metals such as copper, gold, cobalt
- Certain topical drugs and medication
Symptoms of Dermatitis and Eczema
Common symptoms of seasonal dermatitis and eczema are-
- Severe, almost unbearable itching
- Dry skin
- Flaking of superficial skin layers
- Blistering and oozing in some parts of the affected area
- Cracking of skin
- Warmth and elevated temperature in and around the affected area
- Sensitive and tender skin due to aggressive itching
Management of Seasonal Dermatitis and Eczema
There are several medical options available to you in case you suffer from seasonal dermatitis and eczema. Many of these are available over the counter, however, if you’re unsure of your symptoms and require further assistance, be sure to reach out to your physician. Before you consider medical options, be sure to remember to avoid allergens as much as possible. Some of these options available to you are:
- Oral antihistamines
- Steroid ointments
- Unscented moisturizer
- Calamine lotion
- Topical ice baths and packs to relieve localized swelling and warmth
In conclusion, it is important to note that seasonal allergies and allergy attacks can seriously hamper the quality of your life. However, these disorders are manageable with the right kind of medical advice and attention. Be sure to contact your physician in case you have further questions about seasonal allergies and allergy attacks.