A seasonal allergy could be more serious than you think; it’s time to act now
Winters are here, and while most of us love this season for all the hot chocolate it brings along, there are many who struggle during this time. Yes, that’s because this is when seasonal allergies are at their highest.
If you find yourself sneezing in frequent intervals or are tired of a runny nose, you could be the victim of these allergies. In some cases, patients also experience difficulty in breathing.
So what causes these allergies? In most cases, airborne allergens such as pollution, smoke, and fumes trigger respiratory issues. Pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and mold are the other causes. Both indoor and outdoor pollutants cause issues, and trigger allergies.
Although outdoor pollutants are harmful, there’s research that suggests that indoor pollutants are much higher than those in an outdoor environment. Yes, it’s true. There are several reasons for this: overcrowding, poor ventilation, faulty design and, of course, indoor smoking. Some other causes include firewood cooking, fire-based water heaters, humidifiers with stagnant water, poorly maintained ACs, and even incense sticks.
According to a study, in India, the estimated burden of respiratory diseases due to indoor air pollution is 1.6-2 billion sick days a year.
“Although respiratory allergies are perennial, atmospheric pollutants witness a steep rise in winter. They are mostly seen in small children, or those who have a history of respiratory-related allergies in their families,” says Dr Pradeep Mattoo, a general physician in Kanpur.
Whatever be the cause, it is important to pay attention to the signs, and take action.
“It was five years ago when I first began to experience symptoms like a runny nose and headaches. For a long time, I thought it was very normal and most people had it. Only after two-three years did I realise that I was suffering from allergic reactions. I would urge people to be more alert and listen to their bodies,” says Akash Khurana, a 32-year-old media professional.
What are the symptoms and are they similar to Covid-19/cold/flu?
One must be even more cautious during the pandemic, because it is easy to get confused between the symptoms of allergies and COVID-19. It’s likely to send someone into a tizzy, what with so much fear around contracting the virus.
“This year, there was a time when I would experience symptoms like a sore throat or sneezing, and immediately panic. What if I had Covid-19? Later, a doctor told me that it was all because of an allergy,” says Anahita Dubey, an intern at an FMCG company.
Take a look at the table below, which explains the distinguishing factors between the symptoms of respiratory allergies and Covid-19/cold/flu.
Addressing the problem is the need of the hour
Most Indians believe that respiratory allergies are not so serious, and do not take action until the situation aggravates. That’s also because there’s hardly any information available in the public domain. It is important to understand the significance of respiratory allergies, and the ill-effects of leaving them untreated.
In fact, gross negligence can lead to asthma, bronchial allergies, and other pulmonary disorders. That’s why it is better to be safe than sorry! The nasal passage is a pathway for viruses and allergens to enter the lungs, so any sort of inflammation can trigger asthma attacks, and other related issues.
There are some preventive measures that one can take to keep the problem at bay.
“Since atmospheric pollutants are highest during winters, those who suffer from respiratory allergies must try not to come in contact with them as much as possible. Of course, it is not possible to stop going out, but try and avoid stepping out during afternoons and evenings, when pollution is at its peak. Also, always wear a mask when you go out, which is anyway mandatory due to Covid-19. And in case the problem gets out of hand, consult a doctor, who can recommend anti-allergy medicines and other medications to tackle the problem,” says Dr Mattoo.
One can also practice steam inhalation to reduce nasal congestion, so that one can breathe normally. That’s because steam helps to clear nasal passages and its tiny structures found in the lungs. With accumulation of mucus, wheezing and heavy breathing become common, and inhaling steam is the best way to get rid of it.
Gargling every morning with warm water is also a good way to tackle respiratory allergies. It helps to get rid of an irritable nose and throat by thinning the mucus. Take a glass of lukewarm water, and add one teaspoon of salt to it. Dissolve the salt in this, and gargle with it every morning.
To learn more about allergies and their management, visit www.allergyfree.co.in