Author: Ashley Dunmire APRN
Spring season is upon us and with that comes an array of pesky environmental allergies. As grass, flowers, trees, and other plants emerge from their slumbering phase, they release a plethora of pollen into the air, triggering a multitude of allergy symptoms. An individual’s immune system can react to allergens in many ways, with the most common symptoms including itching, dry cough, runny nose, sneezing, swollen eyes, throat irritation, headaches, and eye irritation. Allergy seasons vary depending upon the climate you live in, lasting longer in warmer climates, starting as early as February and can vary from Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Our Immune System as the Gatekeeper
Our immune system plays a key role in seasonal and environmental allergies as it responds to allergens as unwanted invaders that need to be removed. In some individuals, the immune system can overreact, causing an inflammatory cascade by releasing too many chemical mediators and recruiting unwanted help from other members of the immune system. One powerful member of our immune system is the Mast Cell. Mast cells are located in mucosal and epithelial tissues throughout the body, with key players in allergen triggers located in the skin, GI tract, and lungs. The immune system responds to activated mast cells by releasing inflammatory mediators, resulting in edema of nasal mucosa causing congestion, increased mucous production, airway restriction, cough.
Tips for Reducing Symptoms
- Nasal saline irrigation
- Installing air filtration systems in your home to trap airborne irritants
- Eating local honey (although not scientifically proven, many believe this can lower allergy response over time)
- Many patients have found a multitude of natural supplements, including vitamin C, quercetin, butterbur, , stinging nettle, to be beneficial in stabilizing mast cells and histamine response, fighting seasonal allergy symptoms.