An allergy is defined as an abnormal sensitivity to a substance normally tolerated and generally considered harmless such as pollen, food, drugs or even an insect sting. This means that while some substances are as a rule well tolerated by most people, they can induce an allergic reaction in others, mainly due to the presence of the IgE antibody.

Our immune system can produce five distinct classes of immunoglobulins: IgA, IgG, IgM, IgD and IgE. IgA, IgG and IgM protect our bodies against foreign organisms. Despite its presence in our body in only a minute quantity, IgE is a key player in allergic reactions. The reason why some substances induce IgE production and others do not, or why only some individuals develop an allergic reaction is still not fully understood. However, we do know that genetic predisposition plays a significant role in developing allergies.

Allergic reactions are linked to allergen-IgE- mast cells/basophils and chemical mediators that induce immediate symptoms which can be easily controlled with antihistamine. Typically, sneezing, a runny, itchy nose, or wheezing peaks rapidly, but subsides within a few hours. However, some patients can also experience a so-called “delayed phase reaction” after the initial allergic reaction. The delayed phase reaction usually appears about four to six hours after allergen exposure. Delayed phase reaction is caused by inflammation which can only be treated with nasal or inhaled steroids.

Pollen, tiny particles that travel in the air or carried by insects, are male cells of flowering plants and essential to plant fertilization. However, if it’s windy while pollination is in progress, there exists a higher tendency of wind-borne-pollen induced allergic conjunctivitis, rhinitis, and asthma. Right now, our area is experiencing high cedar, juniper, oak, and grass pollen, which will be active until April. Even though it may be critical for very sensitive people to avoid large doses of allergenic plants, many times it is almost impossible because pollen can travel great distances and enter any open window or door.

Avoiding intense outdoor activity, especially during early mornings and late afternoons when pollen counts are high, and wearing a dust mask can help. Other prevention methods include closing windows and running a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrester) or ULPA (Ultra Low Penetration Air) air purifier, cleaning or replacing air-conditioner filters regularly and monitoring the area’s pollen count report to know what to expect and how to prepare for it.