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Allergy – Something’s in the Air!

That little something in the air that makes people sneeze this time of the year is pollen. Not sure if you are truly allergic to these tiny particles or just got the common cold? It’s time to see your doctor to find out!

Hazel and alder are the earliest to bloom and, although the pollen concentration is still fairly low, springtime has already kicked off and you can brace up for the first sneeze of the season if you are sensitive to the pollen of flowers and grasses. Starting a regimen of prescription drugs is recommended well before the pollen season gets underway. “Ragweed is one of the most aggressive allergens in Hungary,” says Prof. Dr. Kristóf Nékám, allergist and clinical immunologist at Dr. Rose Private Hospital. “For most patients medicine is the most effective way to alleviate the symptoms, which otherwise can aggravate severely, prompting heavy asthma attacks even.”

Professor Nékám reminds us that pollens are not only present outdoors – their concentration in the air is measurably higher indoors with frequently opening doors and windows in the summer, and we involuntarily carry allergenic pollens inside on our clothes, shoes and hair. Old, draughty windows let in not only pollens but other air pollutants as well.
Plant-based particles are only part of the problem. Dog and cat hair, mites and spores of molds and fungi are invisible allergens in the house, thriving under the carpet and in dark corners.

If you develop persistent symptoms that resemble the common cold you should consult your physician because several other health conditions have the same symptoms as allergy. “We have to find the reasons behind the respiratory problems: whether it is allergy or caused by viral infection or some other disease. Successful treatment of these unpleasant symptoms is only possible with proper diagnostics,” advises professor Nékám.
Medical masks are only effective for a short time. Special pollen masks are not always the best quality and they need regular cleaning. For lasting results, specialists recommend drug treatment and immune therapy.

GOOD TO KNOW

- Ragweed is completely harmless until it starts blooming. You can handle it without any problem but be careful as it flowers more than once over a season.
- Ragweed is endemic in the Carpathian Basin. If you travel far from the region in the summer, your symptoms are likely to ease or even cease.
- Getting rid of mites is almost impossible – a good clean-up lasts a few weeks at the most.
- Regularly clean or replace the pollen filters in your car and in air conditioners.
- Cross allergenicity is only a problem when pollens are in the air. Allergy to certain fruits and vegetables is largely propelled by the presence of pollens, although in some cases they can become allergens on their own too.
- Mold might not look or smell good but its spores are not as aggressive and allergenic as pollens.
- Living in a damp, moldy house does not necessarily make you ill straight away but the risk is certainly there, as some people are more susceptible than others.

What to do?
Doctor’s orders by Prof. Dr. Kristóf Nékám

It is advisable to have an ENT (Otolaryngology) check-up every year before the pollen season. The examination is short and painless, and it can reveal any ongoing problems. If the symptoms of pollen allergy are similar to the common cold there is nothing to worry about. However, the same symptoms may indicate otitis or sinusitis. Years of neglected inflammation could lead to adenoids in the sinuses. It is not uncommon that pneumonia is the root cause of the problem.

Chronic nasal congestion and frequent headaches are definitely a cause for concern that calls for a visit to the specialist! Severe symptoms can only be alleviated by prescription drugs, most effectively by anti-inflammatory nasal sprays. With consistent use, the medication decreases or completely extinguishes other systemic symptoms of allergy, such as itchy eyes. In case of sensitivity to some of the drug substances, immune therapy is recommended.