Allergies can be a minor nuisance for a few weeks out of the year or a major problem that leaves you red-eyed, sniffling, sneezing and miserable on a regular basis. When allergies combine with other problems like snoring, sleep apnea and eczema, you can add sleep deprivation and chronic itching to the mix. However, all is not lost as allergies and these other problems can often be successfully managed and treated.
The human immune system is designed to protect you from all sorts of viral, bacterial and fungal infections that would otherwise just move in and take over. Sometimes, however, your immune system reacts to what are normally harmless foreign proteins (known as allergens) in substances like food, medications, pollen, fur, feathers or dust. The allergic response to an allergen can range from a bit of a runny nose to a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. It’s not uncommon for people to have more than one allergy or to have related conditions like eczema. Allergies may also co-exist with snoring and sleep apnea. Treatment strategies for allergies range from avoiding the allergen to desensitization (allergy shots) and often include treating the related problems.
In some cases, avoiding the allergen solves the problem. For example, if you’re allergic to strawberries, you just don’t eat them. It gets more complex with allergies to substances like pollen, as avoidance strategies include staying indoors with the air condition on – hard to live your life when you can’t go outside.
Exercise in the evening if you have pollen allergies, as pollen counts are lower then, and change your clothes as soon as you get home to keep pollen out of the house. Food allergies can be particularly tricky and avoidance requires reading labels carefully and constant vigilance.
Immune System Function
Since an allergic reaction is dependent on your immune system, strengthening the immune system might seem counter-productive. However, a strong immune system makes it easier to resist the effect of allergens. You can promote immune system health with regular exercise, a healthy diet, meditation or other forms of stress relief. It’s important to get enough sleep – a minimum of seven to eight hours every night – as research indicates sleep deprivation depresses immunity.
The symptoms of an allergy are often the most annoying part. Constant sneezing, watery eyes and itching can make your day thoroughly uncomfortable. There are a fair number of home remedies and over the counter medications that may be helpful. A saline nasal rinse twice a day can help wash away pollen that would otherwise cling to the membranes in the nose and cause nasal congestion. Protective strategies like sunglasses and a hat can help keep pollen from blowing into your eyes.
When you have an allergic reaction, it’s because your body has released a substance called histamine. Allergic symptoms occur in response to the histamine, which is trying to rid your body of the allergen. A runny nose, for example, is a way to wash out allergens. If a food allergy reaction is severe enough, histamine may provoke nausea and vomiting or diarrhea. Antihistamines counteract the effects of histamine and your body, which means the symptoms get better. Antihistamines don’t cure allergies, they are for symptom management only. Depending on the product, they may be available as eye drops, nasal sprays or oral medications.
Immunotherapy is the medical term for allergy shots or injections. A very small amount of the allergen is injected under the skin once or twice a week. Immunotherapy gradually builds up your ability to tolerate an allergen.
In addition to looking for ways to manage and treat allergies, it’s important to look at related factors. If you snore or think you might have sleep apnea (this applies to your loved ones as well!), contact us at New York ENT to take our snore quiz or schedule an at-home sleep study. We also offer a variety of allergy and sleep apnea treatments to help you regain your health.