What causes spring allergies?
Why do you constantly sniffle when the weather gets warm? Here’s what’s happening in your body when spring allergies hit, and what you can do to curb your symptoms
By Best Health
Ah, spring. It’s that wonderful time of year when the temperature starts to rise and everything is in bloom. But for many Canadians, it also marks the beginning of spring allergy season‘a time of runny noses, itchy eyes and constant sneezing. Allergy symptoms may last right through summer, depending on what you’re allergic to’with trees, grass, molds and ragweed being the most common culprits.
According to the Asthma Canada, approximately 80 percent of Canadians with asthma suffer from allergic rhinitis (better known as ‘hay fever’). And that number has grown significantly, says Dr. Susan Waserman, an allergist and clinical immunologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. ‘As an allergist, the face of my clinic has changed. All allergy has doubled or tripled.’
Anatomy of an allergic reaction
People inherit a certain genetic disposition towards allergies, explains Dr. Waserman. So the tendency to be allergic is passed from parents to children. During allergy season, your body has an immune reaction when exposed to different allergens and forms allergy-specific antibodies (called immunoglobulins), which sit on cells in your eyes, nose, lungs and skin. The next time you come into contact with a particular allergen, your body reacts by releasing chemicals called histamines, leading to an allergic reaction.
Determining your allergy triggers
Before you can treat allergies or try to avoid the cause of your flare-ups, you need to identify what’s causing your symptoms. If you know that you’re at an increased risk for allergies due to family history, it’s a good idea to get an allergy skin test (called a scratch test) before the season begins. ‘Start prepping the season before,’ suggests Janine Fraser, a naturopath with a special interest in allergies, at West Shore Family Naturopathic in Langford, B.C. ‘By the time people are reacting and not feeling well, they’re going to need something pharmaceutical.’ She notes that while a scratch test (which exposes the skin to small amounts of irritants) is an effective way of determining what you’re allergic to, going through the test when you’re already suffering from allergy symptoms can increase your discomfort.
Keep in mind that your allergies may be linked to more than what’s swirling around outside. ‘During allergy season, you could become more sensitive to food allergies,’ says Waserman. Determining whether foods are an issue is an important part of managing your allergies, Fraser adds. ‘Our health is built by the food we’re eating,’ she says. ‘An anti-inflammatory diet won’t completely eliminate an allergy, but it will take some burden off.’ However, she notes that you should consult a professional before eliminating any foods from your diet. ‘If you eliminate the wrong food, you can put yourself at risk for other things [such as nutrient deficiencies],’ she cautions.