All About Allergies: Causes and Treatment Options

September 02, 2020

Saad Dinno, pharmacist and owner of Acton pharmacy, Keyes Drug in Newton, and West Concord Pharmacy is the presenter of A Healthier You, a show that runs on Acton TV. The goal of the show is to discuss relevant health topics and provide information to the viewers that will guide them to a healthy lifestyle.

Below is an excerpt of an interview with Dr. Sara Narayan, a Board certified allergy and immunology specialist at Allergy West in Westford, MA. She treats both pediatric and adult patients suffering from allergies. 

Saad Dinno: 

What are the causes of seasonal allergies and when do you think they start?

Dr. Narayan:

People suffer from seasonal allergies triggered by many different allergens in our environment and it depends on the season. Most seasonal allergies are triggered by a variety of different pollens: tree pollens, grass pollens; in the fall, weeds and ragweed but molds can also cause environmental allergens that can trigger or contribute to seasonal allergies as well. 

Saad Dinno: 

If you read a lot of data, a lot of allergy and asthma rates have climbed in recent decades. Could you tell us why that might be?

Dr. Narayan:

I think there’s a variety of different reasons. I think part of it is that we’re more aware of allergies. More people are getting tested, more people are being treated and taking care of their allergy and asthma symptoms. I think part of it is something called the hygiene hypothesis, which I think is partly contributing to the increase in allergies in general. What the hypothesis is based on is that we’re all too clean. We use too much hand sanitizer. We use too many antibiotics and our body just isn’t forced to mount a reaction to a lot of the infections that historically we’ve all been exposed to.  An IgE antibody, which is the antibody that causes allergies, is also meant to fight against parasitic infections. When our immune system is not forced to deal with lots of infections, it can sometimes skew down the wrong pathway, so I think that probably has contributed to allergies to some degree. 

Saad Dinno:
Interesting. So specifically in the New England region, is there any way to avoid pollen for those that are allergic to it?  And it seems with this golden dust appearing on cars, sidewalks and homes, I’m not sure how we could avoid it. 

Dr. Narayan:
Pretty hard to avoid, I mean unless you want to stay inside all spring, summer, and fall long, which most people don’t. It can be a beautiful season here in New England. Some ways to decrease exposure to the  pollens that we’re exposed to this time of year: keeping household windows closed, making sure that we’re showering every night before bed or at least rinsing off so that we’re not bringing pollen into bed with us, so that it’s not affecting us at night while we’re sleeping. Sometimes during really high pollen days, actually wearing things like sunglasses to protect the eyes so that the pollen isn’t floating directly into the eyes. If you’re outdoors mowing the lawn or doing some yard work like that, and you know that you’re really sensitive, sometimes wearing a mask can be helpful. But short of that, it’s really hard to prevent exposure.

Saad Dinno:
Does a mild or a harsh winter have any play when it comes to allergy season?

Dr. Narayan:
The earlier we start to rewarm, often the earlier the pollen is. The rainier our season is, sometimes that can play a role in there being more pollen, and also more mold spores, which contribute to a lot of people’s allergies as well. So the harsher the winter, the longer the winter, sometimes things are put off and it can kind of go both ways because if, like last winter, when it was cold and snowing for such a long time, it was late that the tree pollens were pollinating and then we had everything bloom at once, the trees and the grasses, and everyone’s kind of bombarded with two triggers so I think that played a lot of role in why last spring was so difficult.

Watch the video to get more insight on:

  1. Why allergies impact individuals differently
  2. Distinguishing allergy symptoms from the common cold
  3. Allergy treatment options including environmental control and medications such as antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays
  4. Practical ways to minimize environmental factors that contribute to allergies
  5. What is allergy immunotherapy 
  6. Mold allergens
  7. Assessing an individual’s history and allergy testing to determine the best treatment option