‘Tis the season for…seasonal allergies and sickness. That doesn’t have the same ring to it as our favorite holiday songs, does it? As we are getting ready for the holiday season, planning trips and gatherings with our loved ones, and enjoying this special time of year, allergies and sickness sometimes have other plans for us. While spring and summer are notorious for triggering allergies in Fresno, CA, fall can also cause allergy flares seemingly out of nowhere and at the most inopportune times – while we’re also fighting off flu season. There’s just no time to be sick when there is so much to celebrate, so let’s break down exactly what seasonal allergies and the flu are, the flu, how they’re connected, and some frequently asked questions to help you and your family stay healthy all season and all year.
Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis, usually occur during certain times when trees, grasses, weeds, and other plants release pollen into the air to fertilize plants. The immune systems of those who suffer from allergy symptoms during these seasons—typically spring, summer, and fall—treat all of these particles as invaders and release chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream. That is what causes the congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose…well, you know.
It’s possible to be allergic to more than one type of pollen and the type that someone is allergic to determines when the symptoms pop up. For example, if you’re allergic to tree pollen that spreads from May through August, you’ll feel those summertime allergies. Or if you happen to be allergic to the pollen that flies through the air from February through June, you may feel symptoms increase in the springtime.
While seasonal allergies can really put you in a foggy haze, we all know the flu doesn’t take a vacation every year either. Let’s take a closer look at that unwelcome little bug.
The flu (influenza) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that attack the respiratory system: the nose, throat, and in some cases the lungs. Most people can recover independently, but sometimes high-risk populations such as young children and those over 65 can experience serious complications. Thankfully, the flu vaccine helps to mitigate more serious symptoms and complications from the infection.
So, why does the flu show up around the same time every year, particularly in the wintertime? Generally speaking, colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses are more common in colder months mostly due to the fact that people are indoors more often. Viruses have an easier time spreading from person to person in close quarters. Plus, the colder and drier air may weaken our resistance to those germs. What a bunch of party crashers!
While seasonal allergies and the flu are two different maladies with different causes, there is some overlap. See, in the spring and fall especially, our immune systems are preoccupied managing our allergies, which leaves us vulnerable to sicknesses like the flu. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who doesn’t suffer from allergies, the temperature swings and fluctuations in pressure can compromise our immune system’s ability to fight off germs. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle this time of year.
If you’re hoping to ward off sickness this year, learn a little more about allergies and the flu, and, to keep your family feeling good, check out some frequently asked questions on both seasonal allergies and the flu below.
Allergies are the body’s response to allergens like dust, pollen, and pet dander. They are not contagious and are not caused by viruses like the flu, which can be spread.
Simply put: to treat allergies, avoid allergens. However, that’s not so easy when you’re triggered by things in your own backyard. It’s best to see a specialist for complete and thorough allergy testing to determine what is causing your flare-ups. To treat the flu, rest is best, plus hydration and in severe cases, your doctor can prescribe you medication.
Avoiding allergens is a way to prevent allergies, but antihistamines, steroids, and decongestants prescribed by a doctor can help keep symptoms under control. A flu vaccine is a great place to start to protect yourself against the flu, especially those who are high-risk or have family members who may be more susceptible to sickness. Since there are multiple strains of the flu virus, vaccines are not 100% effective, but the good news is they can decrease your likelihood of catching the flu and even lower the severity of your symptoms if you do. Another way to try and protect yourself from the flu is simply avoiding those who are sick or who have been around sick friends and family. It is highly contagious and doesn’t mind jumping from person to person!
Most people can treat themselves if they have the flu, but in some cases, symptoms can become severe and it is necessary to see a doctor or specialist. If you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, severe weakness, or muscle pains, it’s best to head to a doctor.
Another thing to put on the calendar this year is an allergy testing consultation with Dr. Buddiga. If you think you or someone in your family is suffering from allergies–or if you want to get ahead of it–it is a great time to get thorough allergy testing at BUDDIGA Family Allergy | Skin | Immunology. From seasonal allergies to food allergies you may not know you even have, Dr. Buddiga can work with you to conduct in-depth testing to determine the best treatment options for your specific needs. You deserve to have a wonderful holiday season full of comfort and joy – not sniffling and sneezing!
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