Advice for Health - Allergies

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is an overreaction by your body’s immune system to something that is harmless to most people. Your immune system will try to destroy anything it feels could harm your body. If it falsely identifies a harmless substance as an invader, the resulting symptoms are an allergic reaction. Your body will go through a sensitization period. This explains why it may take a few days for a person to develop allergy symptoms to a new pet, and why some people develop allergies after many years of exposure to a particular thing.

The strongest distinguishing factor for being at risk of developing allergies is heredity.

    •    If neither parent is allergic, then the chance of a child developing allergies is about 15%.
    •    If one parent has allergies, the chance increases to 30%.
    •    If both parents have allergies, the chance of children developing allergies is over 60%.

Though you may have inherited the tendency to develop allergies, you may not be allergic to the same things your parents are.

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies occur at the same time each year–often during the spring, summer or fall when plants are releasing pollens and seeds into the air in order to reproduce.

Depending on what you are sensitive to, you may only suffer from symptoms for a couple of weeks or you may suffer for several months. Symptoms can include:

    •    Runny or stuffy nose
    •    Sneezing
    •    Itchy and watery eyes
    •    Itchy ears and throat
    •    Red and swollen eyes

The best way to reduce allergy symptoms is to identify your personal allergens and avoid them as much as possible by trying to stay indoors during periods of high pollen counts.

Treating Seasonal Allergies

There are several medications available to treat allergies. Many antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays can be purchased without a prescription. They are very effective in reducing allergy symptoms but can react with other medications that you may be taking or can affect particular health conditions such as high blood pressure or pregnancy.

We’re here to help so please consult with your PharmaChoice pharmacist before purchasing allergy medications.

Allergies in Children

It’s time for seasonal allergies that can be particularly bothersome for children. The main symptoms are sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose. Children may have trouble clearing excess mucus which can lead to coughing or make it hard to sleep. Sometimes this develops into a chest infection.
Antihistamines cannot be used in children under 2. Try to keep them indoors during sunny, windy days when the weather report is forecasting high pollen levels. You can also use saline nasal spray or drops to help with the runny nose. A new product is now available that is drug free and safe for children under 2 years of age.

Children over 2 years of age are able to use antihistamines and some nasal sprays. 
It is always best to speak to your PharmaChoice pharmacist or see a doctor before you start treatments yourself and confirm that it is appropriate. If your child is experiencing any trouble breathing, tightness or phlegm in their chest that they are bringing up when they cough, you should see your doctor to rule out cold or infection.

If you think your child may have allergies, speak to your Pharmachoice Pharmacist about which treatment options are right for you.

Asthma and Allergies

Asthma is a chronic lung condition. The airways become inflamed and swollen, causing them to narrow. The airways produce mucus in response to the inflammation, clogging the shrunken tubes. Air can’t move through the lungs as well as it should, making it difficult to breathe. Everyone’s lungs are sensitive to different things such as pollen, air pollution, or strong chemicals. People with asthma have lungs that are more sensitive than average. Asthma is in part an allergic response and may be triggered by some external substance that particularly irritates your lungs. Some people are sensitive to more than one trigger. Common allergens include:

    •    grass, tree, and ragweed pollen
    •    moulds
    •    house dust mites
    •    animal dander

Asthma attacks can also be triggered by non-allergic irritants such as:

    •    viral infections such as the common cold or the flu
    •    laughing hard, crying, shouting
    •    smog and smoke
    •    strong smells (e.g., paint fumes, perfumes, cleaning products)
    •    suddenly breathing cold air
    •    vigorous exercise

There is no cure for asthma. It’s a chronic condition, and it can last a lifetime. Asthma treatment is aimed at keeping you feeling well, with as few symptoms as possible. Avoiding triggers is your first defense against an asthma attack. Try using an asthma diary card to keep track of your symptoms and your surroundings. Most importantly, see you doctor and ask for help to achieve better asthma control.