How do you know summer is coming? Look around and sneeze non-stop. The immediate diagnosis of all of us is “Well, it’s because of the air conditioners. Once hot, once cold – do not get out of it,” and indeed it is very easy to blame these noisy bastards. On the other hand, they are not solely responsible for all these sneezes and they are not alone in the campaign.
“Allergy is a reaction of the immune system to substances in the environment. This is an abnormal but very common reaction,” says Prof. Alon Hershko, chairman of the Israeli Association of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. “Thousands of people in Israel and millions around the world suffer from allergy symptoms to one degree or another. Sometimes an allergy can cause sneezing, nasal congestion or coughing but sometimes an allergic reaction can be dangerous and life threatening. Potential such as pollen, mold and various foods.Such a substance is called “allergen.” Here are some allergens and solutions noted and suggested by Prof. Hershko.
Can removing masks indoors have an effect?
In cases of allergy caused by common allergens such as house dust mites, pollen, etc. – a mask does not provide protection and therefore its removal in the coming days even in enclosed spaces should not change the frequency of the onset of symptoms. In addition, one of the most common allergies is an allergy to house dust mites that develops under dust and moisture conditions on books, clothing and similar objects. At home, however, we do not usually wear a mask, so there is no expectation that the surgical mask will help us. If you suffer from allergy symptoms, it is best to use existing treatments for allergic rhinitis and respiratory allergy.
What may increase allergy symptoms?
What determines how much the allergy symptoms will worsen is mainly the degree of your exposure. A lot of people describe the aggravation of symptoms when they enter a space with a lot of dust or pull the sweaters out of the closet. Even close contact with a furry animal such as a dog or cat can cause aggravation. In addition, during the transition seasons, as at this time of year, when the rash is at its peak and there is an increase in the levels of allergens in the air, there is an increase in the incidence of symptoms. There are also other factors like increased fatigue, viral disease that weakens the body and more. To reduce the symptoms of allergy, it is recommended to avoid environmental exposure as much as possible, so if you suffer from an allergy to house dust mites – bet on fur dolls, carpets and other equipment that may accumulate dust.
Can an allergy occur at any age?
Allergy can appear at any age but it usually appears at a young age. Allergy is an acquired phenomenon, not born with it. The onset of allergy can also be seen in adults but less frequently. When allergy symptoms appear in adults (aged 70 and over), the suspicion arises that it is another disease, since at these ages the chances of an allergy are not great.
What is the prevalence of allergy and is it more common among Western countries?
Allergy has become a very common problem. It can be estimated that between 20% -25% of the population suffer from allergies of varying degrees of severity. According to some theories allergy is more common in developed western countries. The same theories hold that the more we grow up in a cleaner environment, taking antibiotics and living without animal contact, the higher the tendency to allergy. On the other hand, in places where humans live in an environment where the immune system is “challenged,” the incidence of allergies is lower. In fact countries in North America and Western Europe have higher rates of people suffering from allergies compared to developing countries in Africa and Asia.
Is there such a thing as an “allergy to air conditioners”?
No, although air conditioners can aggravate rhinitis for allergic reasons. How do you differentiate between allergy and “cold”? First, an allergy does not cause fever. Anyone exposed to an allergen can suffer from a runny nose, but the fever will not go up. Second, a runny nose that goes away on its own after a few days is usually not an allergic runny nose. The longer the symptoms persist, the greater the chance that it is an allergy. Third, allergies have a hereditary predisposition so if one of the family members suffers from asthma or atopic dermatitis then you may need to treat your allergy.
Anyone suffering from allergies can adopt pets?
The best recommendation for those who suffer from allergies is not to approach an allergen. If the allergen is an animal then you should avoid hugging, stroking and certainly adopt a dog or cat. Sometimes the patient has an animal that he is very attached to and only after a few years does an allergic reaction develop. In those cases the solution is immunotherapy. During the same treatment we create a gradual exposure to the allergen while monitoring the reaction after the exposure. In fact we teach the immune system to re-acquire a normal immune response to an allergen.
What treatments are available?
It is best to avoid exposure to allergens as much as possible. Try to reduce the amount of dust in the house, avoid proximity to animals and stay away from the neighborhood garden during the flowering periods. In addition, there is drug treatment: sprays and pills whose purpose is to reduce the allergic reaction and inflammation caused by it. These treatments lower the symptoms created by the immune system. This treatment has very few side effects and is considered to be very effective. In severe cases that are not controlled by medication, immunotherapeutic treatments can be used in order to gradually expose the patient to the allergen so that tolerance is created. It is a treatment that requires time and perseverance and is especially recommended for those who suffer greatly and none of the treatments has resulted in relief of his symptoms.
Professor Alon Hershko is the director of Internal Medicine Department C at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem and the chairman of the Israeli Association of Allergy and Clinical Immunology..