You know it’s coming, you can smell it in the air – Spring.

The best part about Spring is everything that comes with it, new flowers, more sunshine, better moods from friends, family, and colleagues. However, it’s not always greener on the other side. Unfortunately, you have allergies.

With optimism, Africa is referred to as the ‘continent of the future’, yet still faces many challenges related to infectious and noncommunicable (lifestyle) diseases – a growing concern for African healthcare systems and the world at large. Dealing with allergies and other immunodeficiencies requires a lot of resources from the health sector, leaving the system burdened and scores with sicknesses untreated. Much of what can be attended to is not well communicated but with increasing number of information dissemination, many more Africans will be able to address not only their allergies before severity but also other lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

According to  Prof Jonny Peter, head of the department of allergology and clinical immunology at the University of Cape Town, “One in five people suffer from hayfever in South Africa”. The signs of such allergies range from a slightly blocked nose to sneezing attacks and a general stuffiness from sinusitis or other infections. It should be no wonder then that “allergies cost the South African economy more than R600-million a year…while South Africans spend more than R480-million a year on allergy medications” as stated by pharmaceutical company Pharmadynamics.

Allergies and Symptoms

With this in mind, it is important to note that allergies are a mechanism that then manifests as an illness. It is this illness that has symptoms and not the allergy itself. These illnesses are then called ‘allergic diseases’.

The most common of allergic diseases include asthma, eczema, rhinitis, hives, insect allergies, food allergies, drug allergies and anaphylaxis (anaphylactic reaction). People can have either an allergic or non-allergic reaction such as with a bee sting that can cause an allergic or toxic reaction. Food allergies vary in that they can appear as either allergies, aversions, intolerances or poisoning.

Allergies are most commonly triggered by aeroallergens which are airborne such as pollen or spores which cause a reaction.

Asthma symptoms

Asthma is often associated with the common cold and other respiratory tract infections. Symptoms include a recurring tight chest, wheezing and coughing. Asthma can also be triggered by exercise, laughter, crying, and exposure to allergens and irritants such as cigarette smoke, petrol or paint fumes.

Many people with asthma also have varied symptoms that are dependent on the season (e.g. spring) and / or variations in the time of day (e.g. in the morning when a person wakes up). Symptoms are reversible with an asthma pump or a nebulizer.

Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever) Symptoms

  • Blocked nose
  • Itchy or a runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Unusual sounds such as persistent sniffing, snorting or clicking noises
  • An itchy throat and/or ears
  • Trouble sleeping

Eczema Symptoms

The most common type of eczema, atopic dermatitis, is often found with those who have asthma and hay fever. Signs and symptoms include a rash that comes and goes, is itchy, and can be acute or chronic, accompanied with tiny blisters (vesicles) that can weep and ooze, eventually producing crusted, thickened plaques of skin.

These symptoms are found during infancy and changes as the child grows. It typically first affects the cheeks and chin, later the outsides of the arms and knees, and later the insides (flexures) of the arms and knees.

Symptoms of Urticaria (Hives/Bommels)

Urticaria symptoms include a rash that is itchy but not painful and lasts less than three days. It may appear in different areas of the body and can occur on its own or can be triggered by specific physical or allergic triggers.

Symptoms of Food, Insect and Drug Allergies

These include:

  • Swelling of the skin, lips, tongue or face
  • Itchy skin, hives or eczema
  • Wheezing or noisy breathing
  • Tightness of the throat with coughing or voice change
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stuffy or a runny nose, or sneezing
  • Dizziness
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Fighting Allergies

It is best to first determine whether you suffer from colds or allergies. Even though many symptoms overlap such as sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, with a cold you may display other symptoms like fever, fatigue, cough, aches, and pains, which would not appear with allergies.

Springtime can exacerbate these symptoms but they can be diminished.

  • Avoidance: Try to avoid tree pollen by staying indoors particularly on windy days. If you do go outside cover your face as much as possible to avoid pollen particles. Once your return you can take a shower to remove any lingering pollen and make sure you also bathe your pets who may trigger your symptoms.
  • Treatment: You can treat symptoms with over-the-counter medications like antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays or prescription medication from a doctor. Nasal sprays work well to tame the reaction to allergic triggers in your nose and although are effective when used as needed they are more effective when used consistently. You can begin using the spray in the weeks leading up to spring and pollen season as a means to curb the severity of allergic reactions.
  • Immunotherapy: Having immunotherapy treatment includes taking allergy shots or drops under the tongue. Although helpful, allergy shots are not an immediate fix for quelling flaring symptoms. The treatment of allergies takes time with small controlled amounts of the allergen being administered to the persons over the course of a few months. The treatment helps to remove their symptoms and lessen the need for medication. The results last for years and the treatment is finished.

Lastly, it is important to make lifestyle changes that will support the effort to address allergies. Keeping healthy and eating the right food and supplements can build the immunity levels in your body so that you are less susceptible to reactions. Immune fortification supplements such as colostrum aid in gut line repair and boost your system while healing injuries and killing bacteria and fungus in the body.