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Back to the future: seasonal allergies management with awareness and smart planning for quality of life

It is spring again and the ordeal will begin again for all those suffering from seasonal pollen allergies. If you suffer from spring allergies, you already know that you tend to feel miserable once pollen season hits. But did you know that allergies can affect many different systems within your body and that they are all interconnected? Not only that, if you have the rationale to plan the right interventions in time, do you know that you can also have a better quality of life?

How will you feel the effects?

Nasal Allergies: The image that comes to mind when you hear “spring allergies” is someone sneezing and blowing their nose. Inhaled pollen can trigger an allergic reaction in susceptible people, leading to symptoms such as sneezing, itching and nasal congestion. Nasal allergies are commonly called “hay fever”, although there is no connection to either hay or fever. The impact of these allergies is not limited to the respiratory tract.

Asthma attacks: For people with asthma, exposure to springtime allergens can make symptoms significantly worse. Pollen and other airborne allergens can irritate the airways, causing them to rapidly narrow and increase inflammation over time. This aggravation may cause wheezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing. The link between nasal allergies and asthma, sometimes known as “allergy march”, shows progression in some individuals.

Eczema: in addition to the respiratory system, spring allergens and warmer temperatures can also impact the skin. Eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition, can worsen during the spring months. Pollen and other environmental allergens can trigger flare-ups in people with sensitive skin. The connection between environmental allergies and skin conditions highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to the management of allergic diseases.

Eye Allergies: seasonal allergic conjunctivitis (CAS) is by far the most common type of eye allergy. Patients may experience symptoms in spring, summer, and/or fall, depending on the type of plant pollen in the air. Typical symptoms include itching, redness, burning, and clear, watery discharge. People with CAS may have chronic dark circles under the eyes, swollen eyelids, and bright lights may be uncomfortable (photophobia). Symptoms often accompany the runny nose, sneezing and burning eyes associated with hay fever and other seasonal allergies.

What should an allergic person do?

Take the right medications: although people react differently to different allergens, the symptoms often look very similar. If you find yourself reacting the same way at the same time every year, you may have allergies and the right medication can help. Medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, and bronchodilators play a crucial role in relieving symptoms associated with spring allergies. These therapies can help manage both respiratory and skin flare-ups, along with choking, sneezing, and itchy eyes.

Avoid “your” allergens: once you know what you have an allergic reaction to, you can work to avoid that substance. Measures such as keeping windows closed to keep pollen out, showering at night, and washing clothes after being outdoors in the presence of pollen can help relieve symptoms. If you suffer from eczema, moisturizing your skin often is essential to reduce itching and avoid fabrics that irritate your skin. For eye allergies, artificial tears can temporarily wash allergens from the eyes and moisten them, in addition to using anti-allergy eye drops.

Manage it with an allergologist: An allergist can work with you to identify your personal allergen sensitivity profile and keep your symptoms under control. They start by running tests to determine what is causing your symptoms and develop a plan tailored to your needs. Your allergist may suggest allergen immunotherapy, in the form of injections or tablets. Unlike conventional antihistamines and corticosteroids, immunotherapy can be a long-term solution capable of modifying the immune system’s response to specific allergens. Although symptoms are not always severe, allergies and asthma are diseases and should be treated as such.

Summary and considerations

For some years, science has accumulated evidence that the management of allergic conditions can also include the intake of probiotics (lactobacilli) widely available on the market. The problem has been investigated since 2010 and there is evidence that starting their intake 20-30 days before the onset of the “critical” season can help manage the symptoms in the long term. Being supplements, they do not require particular prescriptions, but science has evidence that much of the “fault” for allergic manifestations comes from poor processing of allergens at the intestinal as well as respiratory level. Probiotics can make the intestinal microbiota “collaborate” better with the local immune system. Taking probiotics can also be done through yogurt and kefir, which are the best-known fermented foods rich in probiotics. This information may serve, as mentioned, to alleviate the symptoms in the long term, but you need to have patience and discipline. Many people who suffer from allergies, asthma or eczema simply don’t realize how much better they can feel if they do everything in a rational and planned way.

  • edited by Dr. Gianfrancesco Cormaci, PhD, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry.

Scientific references

Shunsheng Han C. Am J Transl Res. 2024; 16(1):136-146.

Virchow JC et al. Allergol Select. 2024 Jan 12; 8:6-11.

Moten D et al. Adv Respir Med. 2023 Nov; 91(6):486-503.

Goniotakis I et al. Children (Basel). 2023 Sep; 10(9):1571. 

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Dott. Gianfrancesco Cormaci
Dott. Gianfrancesco Cormaci
Laurea in Medicina e Chirurgia nel 1998, specialista in Biochimica Clinica dal 2002, ha conseguito dottorato in Neurobiologia nel 2006. Ex-ricercatore, ha trascorso 5 anni negli USA alle dipendenze dell' NIH/NIDA e poi della Johns Hopkins University. Guardia medica presso la casa di Cura Sant'Agata a Catania. In libera professione, si occupa di Medicina Preventiva personalizzata e intolleranze alimentari. Detentore di un brevetto per la fabbricazione di sfarinati gluten-free a partire da regolare farina di grano. Responsabile della sezione R&D della CoFood s.r.l. per la ricerca e sviluppo di nuovi prodotti alimentari, inclusi quelli a fini medici speciali.

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