How can you tell if sneezing and wheezing is caused by indoor allergies? Answer these questions to help determine who the main offender is.
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may suffer from perennial allergies. Ask your allergist or personal physician about treatment options.
TEST YOUR HAY FEVER IQ
It's estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, and as many as 40 million have hay fever (allergic rhinitis) that brings on sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, wheezing or cough. Test your knowledge of hay fever, and what can be done about it, with this true-false quiz:
1.Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to hay and produces fever and other flu-like symptoms.
2.You're more likely to suffer from allergies if your parents have them.
3.If you've reached adulthood without suffering from allergies, relax. You never will.
4.Hay fever season can be spring, summer or fall depending on where you live.
5.There is no good treatment for hay fever; the only way to find relief is to stay inside with the windows closed until the season is over.
6.If an allergy medication relieves your symptoms, it usually also will make you sleepy.
7.Hay fever is caused by an overactive immune system.
8.An allergy can be fatal.
9.More people suffer from hay fever than any other type of allergy.
10.Moving to Arizona or someplace with a similar climate is a sure cure for hay fever.
ANSWERS TO HAY FEVER QUIZ
Hay rarely causes allergy and hay fever symptoms rarely include fever. Allergic rhinitis, the technical term for hay fever, is caused by allergy to the pollen from trees, grasses or weeds, or the spores of molds. Typical symptoms are sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose and a burning sensation on the palate or in the throat.
Allergies tend to run in families. If both parents have allergies, their children most likely will, too.
Most allergies develop in childhood, but a first allergy attack can occur at any age.
Hay fever season varies with geographic location because pollination occurs at different times in different regions.
Staying inside when pollen counts are high can minimize the symptoms of hay fever, but today's over-the-counter and prescription medications can relieve symptoms outdoors and in. Consultation with an allergist-immunologist can help hay fever sufferers find the treatment they need.
Sleepiness was a side effect of many medications used to treat allergies in the past, but newer antihistamines can alleviate symptoms without inducing sleep. There also are new nasal sprays and eye drops available that suppress the body's release of histamine, a chemical that causes allergy symptoms.
Hay fever and other allergies are caused when the body's immune system overreacts to substances that ordinarily are harmless. When a grain of pollen, for example, becomes lodged in the nose or throat, the immune system perceives it as a threat. The body responds as if the grain were a virus, bacteria or parasite, and sends out legions of antibodies to fight the invader. These antibodies, in turn, signal the release of chemicals including histamine that cause swelling, itching and other allergy symptoms.
In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction can cause anaphylaxis, which results in 2,000 deaths in the United States each year. Symptoms, which usually are immediate and progress rapidly, may include a dangerous drop in blood pressure, bronchial spasms and irregular heartbeat. Allergies also can lead to asthma, which is responsible for 4,500 deaths each year.
As many as 40 million Americans suffer from hay fever, accounting for nearly half of all allergies.
Though Arizona was once considered virtually "pollen free," this is no longer the case. Too many people have moved to this region bringing their lawns, bushes and mulberry trees with them, causing both the desert and the pollen counts to bloom.