This Spring marks another Allergy Awareness Week, where Allergy UK helps to raise the profile of what it’s like to live life with an allergy, and how we should all be aware of the life-threatening risks.
Each year, the charity marks the week with a special emphasis on a particular aspect of allergies and this year it’s the role that outdoor air quality plays for allergy sufferers.
What Causes an Allergy?
The immune system, that is our built-in protection system against bugs and other invaders, is sadly also responsible for allergic responses. Sometimes, the immune system gets things wrong, and recognises certain otherwise innocent substances as harmful.
When this happens, the immune system releases antibodies called immunoglobulin E, or IgE, specific to the ‘allergen’ (the substance you’re allergic to) that’s causing the allergic response.
IgE then triggers the release of histamine, which causes allergy symptoms.
Allergic reactions can be triggered by:
- things we breathe in, such as pollen in the case of hayfever, dust mites, mould spores or animal dander (hair and flakes of skin)
- things that touch our skin, such as lanolin, latex and chemicals found in household cleaning products and hair dyes
- things we eat, such as nuts, cow’s dairy products and shellfish
- certain drugs including aspirin and particular antibiotics
- inset bites
What Are the Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction?
Allergy symptoms include itching, sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, a runny and/or blocked nose and coming out in urticaria, or hives – red, itchy bumps on the skin.
Asthma and eczema symptoms can also be made worse by allergies. Whilst most allergic symptoms are mild (but cause maximum irritation), sometimes allergies can be serious and cause difficulty breathing and even anaphylactic shock. This is a serious medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention by calling 999.
Air Pollution and Allergies
Research has repeatedly shown that a rise in air pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter from traffic and industry are in part responsible for a rise in allergies including asthma and hayfever.
We can all help to improve the air quality in our towns and cities. Allergy UK urge us all to consider reducing our reliance on cars, which means using public transport, walking, cycling and lift sharing whenever we can. It also means adopting other methods of reducing air pollution by for example choosing locally reared and produced foods, to reduce food air miles.
You can sign up to the Allergy UK Allergy Awareness Week newsletter for more valuable tips.
Supplements for Allergy Sufferers
If you suffer with an allergy, keeping your immune system as strong and healthy as possible can help to minimise your allergic reactions. Eating a healthy diet rich in wholegrains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and getting plenty of exercise will help. As will minimising stress , staying hydrated and getting enough restful sleep.
There are also supplements that can help you manage your allergies. Ani-inflammatory compounds such as curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, help to strengthen the immune system. Allercetin is a homeopathic remedy that helps the body fight allergy symptoms. Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and when taken with Bioflavonoids can assist in relieving symptoms of an allergy. Vitamin A, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E boost the immunity and Calcium taken along with Vitamin D to help absorption can reduce the severity of a reaction.
Never go without your allergy medication or EpiPen if you need them, and we wish you a (relatively) allergy-free Spring!