An Expert Advice On Battling Allergies In Moonsoon
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In India, nearly 20-30% of the population suffers from some form of allergy in their lifetime.
The cool breeze hitting your face, the lovely setting for a romantic evening, and the over-energetic frogs with their croaks. Yes, we are speaking about monsoons and they are here in India. As much as we enjoy the monsoon after the soaring heat, there are some allergies which we have to battle.
Allergy is a hypersensitive response by the body's immune system to a substance that either enters or comes in contact with the body. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Commonly encountered allergens are pet dander, pollen grains, dust mites, moulds, insect venom and food products. The allergy occurs only in 'susceptible individuals' and can manifest in the form of asthma, rhinitis (a runny nose), conjunctivitis (red and itchy eye), itchy skin lesions and life-threatening anaphylaxis leading to a sudden obstruction of airway, requiring urgent medical care. Globally about 300 million people suffer from asthma and about 200 to 250 million people suffer from food allergies. One-tenth of the population suffers from drug allergies and 400 million from rhinitis. In India, nearly 20-30% of the population suffers from some form of allergy in their lifetime. The incidence of asthma during monsoons is known to increase due to a higher concentration of mould spores in the environment. Evidence also suggests that the incidence of allergic rhinitis and atopic dermatitis (skin allergy) also increases after rains. Symptoms like sneezing, running or blocked nose with or without wheeze and breathlessness have a drastic impact on social and professional life as the individual fails to cope up with day-to-day activities and quality of work is reduced. The complexity and disease burden of allergy warrants an integrated approach to diagnosis and treatment and greater awareness of the disease amongst family physicians, specialists, patients as well as the community in general.
The management of allergy starts with identifying the allergen—which can be done by skin prick tests and certain Blood tests which measure the Serum Specific Immunoglobulin E, a marker for allergy. Once the allergen is identified, preventive guidelines form the backbone of allergy management.
Categorical Preventive Guidelines for Allergy
Image source: Wikipedia
House Dust Mites:
These are microscopic insects which breed in household dust and are one of the biggest causes of allergies worldwide and flourish at 16 to 24 Degree Celsius. Washing clothes at higher temperatures can tackle this problem. Consider using plastic covered occlusive mattress and bedding covers (this acts as a barrier to dust mites and their droppings). Choose tiled or hard floor coverings instead of carpet. Clean cushions, soft toys, curtains and upholstered furniture regularly either by washing or vacuuming them. Use synthetic pillows and acrylic duvets instead of woollen blankets or cotton bedding. Use a damp, clean cloth to wipe surfaces, as dry dusting can spread the allergens further.
Exposure to flakes of their dead skin, saliva, and dried urine can cause allergies. Try to permanently remove the pet from the house, and if not: Keep pets outside as much as possible or limit them to one room, preferably one without carpet. Do not allow pets in bedrooms. Wash pets at least once a fortnight. Groom dogs regularly outside. Regularly wash all bedding and soft furnishings your pet has been on. If you are visiting a friend or relative with a pet, taking an antihistamine medicine after consulting your doctor one hour before entering the house will help you reduce your symptoms.
Most people are affected during spring and summer months because this is when most trees and plants pollinate. Avoid line-drying clothes and bedding when the pollen count is high. Keep doors and windows shut during the mid-morning and early evening when there is most pollen in the air. Clean your nose regularly (douching). Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after being outside. Avoid grassy areas, such as parks and fields, when possible. If you have a lawn, consider staying away from gardening. Iron your clothes before use.
Spores are released when there is a sudden rise in temperature in a moist environment, such as when central heating is turned on in a damp house, or wet clothes are dried next to a fireplace. Keep your home dry and well ventilated, especially when showering or cooking, open the vents. Do not dry clothes indoors, store clothes in damp cupboards or pack clothes too tightly in wardrobes. Deal with any damp and condensation in your home.
Eating certain food items especially fruits and refrigerated foods aggravate allergies in some and these if known should be avoided. Individuals requiring medical therapy are treated by way of tablets, skin creams, nasal sprays, and inhalers. However, for most of them, the recurrence of symptoms does occur on stopping medicines. Long-term use of these medicines require the change in dose from time-to-time and certain adverse events may be observed if used for several months or years.
The best thing to do is to avoid allergies in the first place, by following the above practices. Happy monsoon, fellows! Dr. Saud Ahmed is Associate Medical Director and Head - ENT, Head & Neck Services, Primecare Hospitals, Bangalore.