Warm, whispering breezes driving away the cold of winter, lush green grasses and flowers blooming in every colour…ah, spring!
- Puffy face? Check.
- Running nose? Check.
- Violent sneezing spells loud enough to wake the dead? Check.
Allergy: the herald of spring and depleter of tissue boxes. Described as a hypersensitivity reaction of the body to common substances such as foods or pollen, it’s brought about by an army of IgE antibodies marching through to clear the body of anything it doesn’t take a liking to.
Common allergens are:
- dust, mold
- food substances like peanuts, pineapples, shellfish and food colourings
- animal dander such as cat hair, dog hair
- The rainy season in Manipal brings with it a plethora of new plants and flowers that commonly cause allergies when one opens windows/walks out, especially early in the morning. Somewhere in the 1950s, the Americans bestowed a benevolent independence gift on our country – Parthenium, commonly known as ‘Carrot/Congress grass’. This weed travelled unbidden across the Indian border among wheat imports, and is not only dangerous to crops, but also causes severe skin and respiratory allergies in humans.
- Skin allergies can be caused by chlorine in swimming pools, nickel and latex (sometimes ‘no glove, no love’ isn’t the best strategy).
How allergies work:
Let’s take pollen as an example of an allergen. So you’re out walking at End Point, enjoying the post-rain weather. Maybe a pretty flower catches your eye and you stop to pluck it. Outraged at being plucked, the flower decides to send its agents of mass destruction into your nose – pollen. Well, your body isn’t just going to sit back and watch! So it assimilates a host of IgE antibodies, all set to attack. The first time the allergen enters, it ‘primes’ your body for attack. The next time it enters – it’s a massacre.
Your nose becomes blocked or runny, your face swells up, eyes water, itch and become red, sinuses get clogged and of course – the endless sneezing. You may experience shortness of breath or a tightness in your chest. Food allergies may result in stomach cramps and vomiting. A skin allergy could manifest as a swelling or an itchy red rash called hives. Asthma, anaphylaxis and eczema may also be precipitated by allergies.
What to do:
- Dust allergy: Keep your room clean. Maybe mom nagged you for a reason. Avoid going out in dusty areas and cover your nose while cleaning. Face masks may help. Avoid working outdoors if possible. Change your bedcovers regularly and change your clothes when you get back home from college. If your walls get covered with fungus, get your room painted.
- Over the counter nasal decongestants may help with the nose block. NEVER USE THESE FOR MORE THAN 4 TO 5 DAYS IN CONTINUITY.
- Antihistamines are also available over the counter. These can relieve nasal congestion, itching, swelling, redness, etc. Beware – it causes sleepiness of varying degree from person to person. Allegra is a commonly available drug in pharmacies. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor before starting any medications.
- If you are averse to taking medications, stick to a hot ginger tea and soup to help clear the secretions.
It is a severe allergic reaction manifesting as difficulty breathing, severe swelling (especially of face) and a drop in your BP, leading to dizziness and fainting. It could lead to complications such as kidney failure, or even death. So unless you have a particular liking for the KMC Mortuary or the dialysis unit, DO NOT IGNORE YOUR ALLERGIES. If they are severe or persistent, consult an ENT specialist.
To conclude: tissues are your best friend. Always.