Spring for Some Has a Sting Spring for Some Has a StingAfter months of cold weather, most of us cannot wait to get out of the house to enjoy the sun and participate in outdoor activities. However, the arrival of spring and the flowers spell miseries for millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies.
"I know spring is in the air when my nose starts twitching," said Claire Hong, 36, who has been suffering from hay fever ever since childhood. Her symptoms, which include a runny nose, watery eyes and an itchy throat, are at their worst in the morning because she is allergic not only to pollen but cold air as well. The difference in temperature between the heated house and the still-nippy morning air contribute to her morning misery. "It is embarrassing because I have to constantly blow my nose," said Ms. Hong.
According to the Korean Academy of Asthma and Allergy, about 15-20 percent of the population, or 6 million Koreans, have some type of allergy. Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever as it is usually known, is one of the most common allergies here, causing misery to sufferers particularly during spring, starting in March and lasting well into June. The second peak in pollen count is observed from mid-August to October, according to the local pollen calendar.
Hay fever is caused by an allergy to the pollen from trees, grasses or weeds, or mold spores. Sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, a runny nose and a burning sensation in the threat are typical symptoms of hay fever. Another condition that affects people in Korea is the yellow sand that blows in from the desert regions of China and Mongolia. Because the yellow sand carries with it silicon, cadmium, lead, aluminum and copper, it can also trigger allergic rhinitis. The yellow sand phenomenon, which usually occurs in April, came early this year, covering the sky with haze for a number of days earlier this month.
People with allergies do not need to suffer unnecessarily if they learn to take control with coping strategies. These strategies involve avoidance, medication and allergy shots to help sufferers not only cope but feel good during the peak allergy season.
The first step you can take to alleviate the miseries of hay fever is avoidance. Reduce exposure to the things that trigger allergy symptoms such as molds, pollen, dust, and pet dander and hair. Even while taking medication or receiving immunotherapy, avoidance should be continued.
Antihistamines, decongestants and inhaled medications can be used to control symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose and congestion. Medications available today do not cause side effects such as drowsiness or a watery mouth. However, it is essential to consult a physician before taking antihistamine to control dosage, because response to antihistamine varies among individuals.
If avoidance and medications do not bring satisfactory results, you could consider immunotherapy using allergy shots. Receiving allergy shots will gradually decrease sensitivity and build immunity to the things that trigger allergy symptoms.
Immunization works by introducing small amounts of purified substances to which the person is allergic, in gradually increasing amounts. Allergy shots usually must be continued for several years, but sometimes can be discontinued with immunity maintained for a lifetime. Because allergy shots reduce and can eliminate the need to take medication, they are recommended when patients do not respond well to medications, when they experience side effects from medications or when they are exposed to an allergen year-round.
"The best thing to do is to avoid exposure to known allergens," said Dr. Jun Hwa-kyung, a pediatrician in a private practice in Hongeun-dong, Seoul, who has seen a swelling number of children suffer runny noses and watery eyes this time of the year. Since it is next to impossible to keep children indoors after a long winter, the next best thing to do is to practice good personal hygiene.
"Make sure the children wash their face, hands and feet after being outdoors. It also helps to gargle," Dr. Jun said.
Allergy Survival Tips
You should consult an allergy specialist for advice on how to manage your allergy.
The following tips from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology may also help:
1. Avoid or limit exposure to the allergen.
2. Be ready for the allergy season. Antihistamines taken before exposure to allergy-causing substances can help prevent an outbreak of symptoms.
3. Air-condition your car and home and keep the windows closed to keep the pollen out. Remember to clean air-conditioning units to prevent mold growth.
4. Avoid windy weather as it can aggravate allergies.
5. Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen from irritating the eyes.
6. Wash hands often and rinse eyes with cool water after coming indoors to remove clinging pollen. Wash hair at night to prevent bringing the pollen into bed with you.
by Kim Hoo-ran