What are Allergies and How do They Affect the Sinuses?
There are a variety of substances floating in the air we breathe every day. From pollutants to pollen to mold to animal dander, these microscopic particles (otherwise known as allergens) are harmless to most of the population. However, many people react badly to these substances. Allergies are the immune response of your body fighting back against these substances. One in five adults develops allergies over a lifetime.
An allergic response can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, causes the sinuses to become inflamed and affects the eyes and nose.
What Happens During an Allergic Reaction?
When your body comes into contact with an allergen that triggers your immune response, your body produces an antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). When IgE attaches to the allergen, it triggers your body to produce histamine. The histamine release leads to the symptoms recognized as an allergic reaction, often with swollen, teary eyes, sneezing, runny nose – or more serious symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Allergies?
The way your body responds to an allergic reaction is largely determined by how the allergen is introduced into your body. For hay fever-like symptoms associated with seasonal and environmental allergens, symptoms are caused by something you inhale. These symptoms include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Runny nose
- The general feeling of being unwell.
Symptoms of nasal allergies can range from mild to severe. The discomfort subsides after you are no longer exposed to the allergen. While fairly common, allergies leave a person feeling miserable. Sneezing, coughing, and congestion can take their toll on our bodies, leading to exhaustion.
Who is Affected by Allergies?
Anyone can develop allergies at any age. Some people begin to show symptoms as children, while others may not develop an allergy until well into adulthood. Your genetic makeup goes a long way in determining if you will develop allergies in your lifetime. It is common for allergies to run in families. Chances are if you have a parent who has allergies, you are at high risk of developing an allergy at some point in your life.
Your environment plays a major role in determining whether you will develop allergy symptoms, depending upon the substances you encounter in your daily life. If you have the genetic markers for a particular allergen and are then exposed to that allergen at a high level of frequency, your likelihood for developing an allergy to that substance is fairly strong.
How Long do Allergy Symptoms Last?
If, like many people, you suffer from seasonal allergies in the fall and spring of each year, it could feel that you will just have to live with your allergy symptoms. Allergens such as pollen and mold can trigger unpleasant symptoms whenever you go outdoors. Indoors, common allergens include dust, pet dander, and mold. The more you can control how and where you come into contact with your allergic triggers, the better you will be able to control the symptoms.
How do Allergies Affect the Sinuses?
The sinuses are the hollow cavities behind the nose, cheeks, eyes, and forehead. These cavities are lined with a mucosal membrane that provides moisture and comfort when you are healthy. When your sinuses come into contact with an allergen, that allergen causes the mucosal lining of the sinuses to swell, preventing natural drainage. This situation subsequently produces blockages, pressure, and pain within the sinuses.
If allergy symptoms are severe or are left untreated, it can lead to a sinus infection. Sinusitis develops when the lining of your sinus cavities becomes swollen and inflamed. If you have recurring bouts of sinusitis, you should be tested for allergies.
Many nasal allergies can be successfully treated with over-the-counter medications. Dr. Zadeh can help to advise you about what treatment options will be most effective for your specific triggers. Antihistamines, inhaled steroids, and eye drops are commonly used to treat the symptoms of seasonal allergies, and nasal irrigation may be effective in sweeping away the irritants from your sinuses to help you find relief. If you can reduce your exposure to the allergens that are causing your reaction, that will yield great results in helping you find additional relief.