This blog was originally published by Healthcare NOW Radio.
Allergists recognize August 15 as the official start of ragweed season, and we are deep into the onset of weed pollination and facing a blitzkrieg of allergy symptoms. Allergic reactions such as hay fever, asthma, eczema, and anaphylaxis affect tens of millions of Americans; they can lead to a lengthy illness, anxiety, missed work, and other serious medical conditions if left untreated.
In this week’s Friday Five, Dr. John Anderson of AllerVie Health is offering his top five things to know about allergies and how to protect yourself and loved ones from bad allergies.
A Year-Round State of Affairs
A person might feel like they have year-round allergies, and they might be right. Allergies ebb and flow with the seasons; while there might be a decrease in cedar pollen during a particular month, mold spores might be on the rise simultaneously.
While less pollen does occur during the winter, an increase in dust mites and indoor allergies takes place as homes run heaters and spread indoor allergens. Tree pollen begins as early as February, followed by grass, and fungus spores through warmer times of the year. Taking into consideration pet dander, skin irritations, and food allergies, concern and treatment for exposure to harmful elements are not limited to seasonal changes.
Knowledge is power, and situational awareness of what causes symptoms and flare-ups is key to prevention, regardless of what time of year it is.
The Economic Impact and Cost of Allergies
Allergies take a heavy toll on our economy, often under the radar, and not often recognized as a significant concern; they cost an estimated 4 million days of missed work each year for employers and are the cause of a 21% drop in productivity.
Bearing in mind that allergy affliction and asthma will often occur simultaneously, an estimated $80 billion per year is estimated in medical expenses, missed days of work and school, and even death. A Hewitt Associates study found that increased missed work and decreased productivity due to allergies cost U.S. companies more than $250 million. For our economy, businesses, and employers, allergies create a serious financial burden and a constant drain on resources.
COVID-19 and Allergies
If you have allergies, it can be problematic to tell the difference between sensitivity to pollen and COVID-19 as many symptoms overlap. Allergies can cause respiratory issues and difficulty breathing. Shortness of breath may be a symptom of both asthma or COVID-19. Sinus pressure and congestion can overlap between allergies and viral infection. However, fever with headache is more common with COVID-19.
A person should seek medical attention to determine whether they are suffering from allergies or COVID if some of the below conditions are present:
- Allergies are not improving after taking over-the-counter medication, nasal sprays, eye drops, or allergy prescriptions after three to four days, and your symptoms appear to be getting worse
- Development of additional symptoms such as a headache, fever, cough, decreased sense of taste or smell, or gastrointestinal problems such as nausea or vomiting
- Allergy or COVID-19-like symptoms appear due to exposure to someone with the condition
Ignoring the Problem Will Cost You
As with most medical concerns and common health issues, those who suffer initial mild allergic reactions to mold, pollen, pets, and others are at risk of worsening and festering their condition from lengthy exposure.
When an allergic person’s immune system is continually open to hostile elements, it creates an intensified and stronger allergic reaction over time. Infections impacting the skin, sinuses, and lungs are at risk of escalated allergen attacks if no medical treatment or attention is provided, causing further damage and health detriments.
Seemingly minor conditions may escalate, including sinus infections, when airborne irritations like mold, dust mites, and pollen affect the respiratory system. These can lead to fever, congestion, and sinusitis. Increased severity arises should the condition remain neglected: a dysregulation of the immune system can create gateways for bacteria which, in turn, create more serious medical scenarios such as hospital stays or even surgeries.
Effective Treatment Pays Extended Benefits
Grabbing the proverbial allergy bull by its pollen horns and wrestling a solution to a happier and steady state of health is important for any person on the receiving end of an unpleasant wave of yellow dust.
Over-the-counter medications, including liquids, pills, sprays, inhalers, eye drops, and skin creams, provide relief. Consultation with a board certified allergist is the best resource for appropriate treatment, especially for those experiencing severe suffering or symptoms.
Allergists work to keep patients healthy by offering evidence-based treatments and educating the individual about their allergy triggers within a specific demographic area. Taking a broader view, allergists can implement health metrics across different populations and systems to work toward reducing allergy suffering across a community.
Understanding allergy symptoms, recognizing their severity, and finding an effective treatment is important to keeping suffering at bay year-round. Ultimately, these actions will help reduce allergic reactions, improve quality of life, and help provide a foundation for a steady and solid economy, as well as improve a community’s potential for a promising future.
Medically Reviewed By: John Anderson, MD
Reviewed on: Sept. 30, 2022
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