Sneezing Fit

Don’t let allergies control your life

By George M. Withers

Do you hear that? Sounds like there are a lot more people sneezing this spring. That’s because more and more of us suffer from some sort of airborne allergy. According to Health Canada, between 20 and 30 percent of Canadians show a slew of symptoms come springtime.

The condition known as rhinitis is on the rise, especially in young children and specifically those who live in northern countries like Canada. Some blame a longer spring that leads to a higher pollen count. Last year, in particular, was a long one for allergy sufferers, especially for the elderly and the young.

Spring might be the season for pollen but it’s also the season for hope. And hope comes in the form of a new discovery, one that was voted as one of the top 10 discoveries of 2015 by Québec Science magazine. A research team at the McGill University Health Centre worked on a vaccine that rewires the immune system’s response when dealing with allergens.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Christine McCusker, says the study offers a potential way of preventing allergies by developing an inhibitor that helps reduce symptoms of allergic airway diseases like asthma. “By giving the (inhibitor) peptide very early on, before allergies are present, we were able to teach the immune system. So when we tried to make (lab) mice allergic later on, we couldn’t because the immune system had learned to tolerate allergens,” said Dr. McCusker in an MUHC press release.

As for options available to the public now, there’s sublingual immunotherapy. Tablets contain small doses of an allergen and are dissolved under the tongue a few times a week, depending on the severity of the allergy. The hope is to make the sufferer’s cells more tolerant to the allergen. Over-the-counter remedies abound as well. Antihistamines and steroid sprays are popular and effective for many people but so much depends on symptoms, frequency, and level of allergic reaction. That said, it’s best to consult a medical professional before starting any medication.

Of course, there’s a battle to be waged at home. The Asthma Society of Canada suggests spending as much time as possible outdoors come spring and summer. This might go against your initial instinct, what with all of those blooming trees, the smog, and manmade triggers, but there are more triggers inside than outside.

Dust mites: Keep humidity below 50 percent; remove carpets in the bedroom; wash bed linens in hot water; encase mattress and box spring in impermeable covers.

Mould: Clean mouldy areas in bathrooms and basements; monitor the humidity level; be sure to increase ventilation; remove carpets that lie directly on concrete

Fumes: This is the easiest to control. Avoid toxic paints for your walls; use natural air fresheners; always work in a well-ventilated area and use a mask even if you don’t think it’s necessary; take your woodworking hobby outside as often as possible.



Spring 2016, Vol 8 N°2

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