Many allergy sufferers are convinced they are reacting to poplar fluff, but this statement is more fiction than the truth. The fluff flakes are too large to get on the mucous membranes, and it itself is not an allergen: itching or sneezing can occur if the fluff literally tickled your nose. On the other hand, allergy sufferers should still be afraid of poplar fluff: it, like a sponge, collects pollen from other plants and carries it around. In the spring and autumn, spores of certain fungi – Alternaria, Cladosporium, Aspergillus – can also cause allergies. There are cases of sensitivity to two or more allergens, and only a special examination can give exact information about which trigger worked.
Symptoms of hay fever are reminiscent of a common cold: the nose hurts, itches, becomes stuffy, watery eyes, sore throat and, of course, all the time you want to sneeze. You can try to distinguish hay fever from a cold if you pay attention to when all this happens. Colds are more common in the autumn-winter period and usually go away in about a week, but allergies can be much more stubborn and appear during the flowering of different plants. In spring, for example, pollen from trees (birch, alder, hazel).
The examination can include the so-called skin tests when allergens are applied to the skin or injected, and then the reaction is monitored after twenty minutes, five to six hours, and a couple of days. This is a proven and reliable diagnostic method, to which, however, there are a number of contraindications. There is also a blood test for specific antibodies to individual allergens, including medicinal, household, and construction.
What to do?
If the season has already begun and the allergy has manifested itself, you can use antihistamine tablets, nasal sprays, eye drops; These remedies are sold without a prescription, but it is best to see a doctor who will recommend therapy based on your specific symptoms. True, this treatment option does not give a long-term effect: it allows you to reduce the manifestations of the disease but does not completely eliminate it.
The remedies available today are effective and safe: unlike the antihistamines of previous generations, they do not cause drowsiness and practically do not affect daily life. Such drugs suppress the amount of histamine in the blood, reducing the intensity of the allergic reaction – so, swelling, itching, and congestion disappear. But even they are not ideal: once you stop taking it, the histamine level is restored, and the allergic reaction not only recurs but can also become stronger. Every year the allergy progresses and the intensity of the immune reaction grows – the effectiveness of antihistamines, respectively, decreases.
If possible, it is best to literally avoid hay fever – to leave for another climatic zone for the period of plant dusting. For those who are forced to be in an allergic environment, there are also protective equipment: anti-allergenic masks and filters. Some studies have found filters to be even more effective in reducing the symptoms of hay fever than antihistamines. More than half of the participants in the experiments would like to continue using filters in their daily lives. Nevertheless, scientists are not yet ready to confidently say that nasal filters really protect against pollinosis better, and some users note that it is difficult to breathe with them. In any case, if the allergic reaction has already begun, such a remedy is unlikely to help. With nasal congestion, any mechanical obstruction will only make breathing more difficult and worsen your well-being.
Can allergies be cured once and for all?
The most effective method is allergen-specific immunotherapy, which affects the very cause of the disease and reduces sensitivity to triggers. It is carried out before the beginning of the allergic season: the doctor identifies the main allergen so that he can then enter it in small doses and observe the reaction. Such treatment is similar to vaccinations: usually, it is subcutaneous injections or the intake of an allergen in a sublingual form (in tablets or drops). The latter is much more convenient and better suited, for example, to children, but some allergens are available only for injection, and then there is no need to choose.