Here’s What Happens When the Sneezing Season Arrives

Seasonal allergies are proof the body's immune system is working

Allergic reactions occur when the body defends itself against something that is not present on a regular basis.

A normal immune system remembers and defends against invading bacteria and viruses. 

During allergic reactions, however, the immune system fights generally harmless allergens, like pollen or mold, with production of a special class of antibody called immunoglobulin E, or IgE.

Fast Facts

  • Allergies are reactions of your immune system to one or more things.
  • Pollens and mold spores can cause seasonal allergic reactions.
  • The immune system is your body’s defense system. In most allergic reactions, however, it is responding to a false alarm.
  • Allergies cause runny noses, sneezing, itching, rashes, swelling, hives, abdominal pain or asthma. Allergies typically make you feel bad. However, a severe reaction, called anaphylaxis, is life threatening.

— Source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Seasonal Allergies: Nuisance or Real Health Threat?

For most people, hay fever is a seasonal problem — something to endure for a few weeks once or twice a year. But for others, such allergies can lead to more serious complications, including sinusitis and asthma.

  • Sinusitis is one of the most commonly reported chronic diseases and costs almost $6 billion a year to manage. It is the inflammation or infection of the four pairs of cavities behind the nose. Congestion in them can lead to pressure and pain over the eyes, around the nose or in the cheeks just above the teeth. Chronic sinusitis is associated with persistent inflammation and is often difficult to treat. Extended bouts of hay fever can increase the likelihood of chronic sinusitis. But only half of all people with chronic sinusitis are allergic.
  • Asthma is a lung disease that narrows or blocks the airways. This causes wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and other breathing difficulties. Asthma attacks can be triggered by viral infections, cold air, exercise, anxiety, allergens and other factors. Allergic asthma is responsible for almost 80 percent of all asthma diagnoses. It presents the same symptoms as nonallergic asthma, but differs in that it is set 
off primarily by an immune response to specific allergens. In most people with allergic asthma, the culprit allergens are those found indoors, like pets, house dust mites, cockroaches and mold.

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