Allergy is a chronic disease caused by inadequate reactions of our immune system to substances that normally do not harm people, such as plant pollen, animal fur, and certain kinds of food. Allergy is considered the scourge of modern times. Today, various allergies are found in 20–25% of the population. The disease becomes more common and also affects younger people. This trend is explained by several factors: environmental degradation, a huge amount of household chemicals, sedentary lifestyles, daily stress, and unhealthy nutrition.
Allergies to food, household dust, cosmetics, and drugs can be triggered at any time of the year. Seasonal allergic reactions occur only during certain periods, that is when an allergen accumulates in large quantities in the surrounding space. Seasonal allergies usually appear in spring, autumn, and summer, when many plants bloom, and flower pollen in the air can be inhaled through the nose or mouth.
However, some people develop allergies in the cold season. What is the difference between winter and summer allergies? What are their symptoms and how to treat them?
Allergies in the summer may be caused by pollination. The symptoms can last for several weeks or the entire warm season. The latter occurs when several plants become allergenic for a particular person. In addition to pollen, allergies in the summer can be due to:
- Insect bites. Wasps, bees, and bumblebees are especially dangerous for allergy sufferers; bites of these insects can lead to a rapid development of Quincke’s disease or anaphylactic shock which require emergency medical care.
- Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight leads to rashes, swelling, and itching in people with a sun allergy.
- Contaminated air. In hot weather, in the absence of rain, more harmful chemical compounds accumulate in the air, which can cause allergic reactions.
Allergens that enter the respiratory system cause:
- Nasal congestion and paroxysmal breathing
- Large amounts of clear mucus
- Itching of the nose and oropharynx
- Red and watery eyes
- Swelling of lips and eyelids
Severe symptoms include choking, which is especially dangerous for children. Food allergies come with dyspeptic disorders, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea. Both food and respiratory allergies can cause skin changes: urticaria, rash, irritation, itching, and dermatitis.
Bites of midges lead to swelling, itching, and redness of the skin in affected areas. Bee and wasp stings can cause a general reaction: dizziness, drop in blood pressure, skin blanching, chills, and fever.
Any allergen can lead to anaphylactic shock and Quincke’s disease. Allergies in a child can, in addition to the main symptoms, manifest as anxiety, decreased appetite, and poor sleep. In case of suspected allergy, the cause must be accurately identified by doing skin, blood, and other tests, if necessary.
First of all, prevent any further contact with the allergen. Doctors prescribe antihistamines such as cyproheptadine, hydroxyzine, and loratadine to relieve symptoms. Enterosorbents help to speed up the removal of toxins from the body, and vitamin complexes improve the functioning of the immune system. During allergy exacerbations, a hypoallergenic diet is also necessary. Some retailers offer low prices on many drug categories, with cetirizine, fexofenadine, loratadine and similar brand and generic antiallergy medicines retailing cheaper at Advance Canadian pharmacy than (almost) anywhere else.
If the allergy recurs in the summer season, the following measures can be taken:
- Rinse the nose and eyes with cool water after staying outdoors. Pharmacy saline solutions for rinsing your nose will help remove dust, pollen, and other allergens.
- Install mosquito nets on windows. They protect from both insects and microparticles of plant pollen.
- Use air conditioners and air purifiers in the house.
- Carry out wet cleaning at least once a day.
Allergen Specific Immunotherapy (ASIT) is the only treatment method to tackle the causes of respiratory allergies. It gradually introduces minimal doses of the causative allergen into the body. As a result, the immune system ceases to overreact, which can cure the condition or reduce its symptoms.
During the cold season, people spend more time indoors, sometimes in poorly ventilated spaces. Therefore, winter allergies are often caused by indoor allergens:
- mold spores
- dust or dust mites
- cockroaches, including feces and cockroach shells
Winter indoor allergies are very common. In industrialized regions, one in four people is allergic to dust mites. The symptoms are similar to those of other seasonal allergies, and some may also resemble the common cold. There are several differences to distinguish an allergy from a cold:
- Colds can cause fever but airborne allergens do not.
- Colds can cause aches and pains but allergies do not.
- Sore throat is common with colds but less common with allergies.
- Colds can cause pain and pressure in the chest. With allergies, only people with asthma usually report chest pain.
- Cough is more common with a cold, although it can also occur with allergies.
- Allergies cause rashes and itchy eyes, unlike common colds.
Treatment for winter allergies depends on the person’s symptoms and the severity of the condition. Some people may need medical treatment, while others can manage their allergies on their own.
Medications: Some medications, such as over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal steroids, and prescription medications, can help control symptoms.
Nasal rinses: Some people find that nasal sprays and neti pots can help protect the nasal passages from allergens, reducing the severity of allergic reactions.
Asthma treatment: asthma treatment can help reduce the severity of allergies. This may require medication, the use of an inhaler, or some lifestyle changes.
Some strategies can reduce the severity of winter allergies and potentially prevent them:
- improvement of ventilation in the house,
- cleaning dusty areas from dust and dandruff,
- frequent wet cleaning,
- installation of air purifiers,
- cleaning cockroach droppings and studying the possibilities of cockroach control,
- use of dust covers on pillows and mattresses,
- keeping pets out of sleeping quarters if one or more members are allergic to animals,
- removing carpets or using fewer carpets and rugs,
- maintaining humidity in the house at 45% or less,
- removing mold growing in the house.
A person may be allergic to low temperatures. If you notice changes in your skin or other symptoms after being out in the cold, you may have an allergy. The medical term for nettle rash that forms on the skin when exposed to cold is cold urticaria.
What are the symptoms?
Non-life-threatening but serious symptoms of cold urticaria may include:
- red, itchy, raised welts at the site of exposure to cold
- burning sensation on the affected skin when the body is heated
- swelling at the site of exposure
- joint pain
Severe symptoms of cold urticaria that require immediate medical attention may include:
- anaphylaxis: severe acute allergic reaction
- breathing problems such as wheezing
- swelling of the tongue and throat
- drop in blood pressure
You may find that symptoms appear almost immediately (2 to 5 minutes) after being exposed to cold temperatures and disappear after 1–2 hours. In other cases, the reaction may begin after a long time, within a few hours or several days, and may last for several days.