Are allergies a disease or a genetic medical condition?
Why does one person have symptoms when another does not?
While we can’t answer all of the mysteries, we can help you understand what they are, making you better equipped to deal with the issue.
Allergies are simply an overreaction by the immune system to a certain substance. When the immune system detects an invader, such as a virus, it sends antibodies to fight against the intruder, which is how our body is able to naturally fight disease and infection.
However, sometimes our immune system reacts aggressively to an otherwise harmless substance. For example, if you are allergic to pet dander, whenever you come into contact with this substance your body sends an army of antibodies to destroy it. These antibodies create the runny noses, coughing, and sneezing that give you so much trouble.
That’s what allergies are: an overreaction by your immune system. This might sound simple, but they can create a wide range of issues, including asthma attacks. Allergies can be severe, and preventing them can become extremely complicated.
By understanding the allergies in the U.S., including when, where, and how they strike, you’ll be better equipped to get through every allergy season. From winter to fall, this is the information you need to deal with your allergies…
Allergies Across the United States: A Look at the StatisticsIf you are looking for information on allergies, one of the most useful resources is the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, which provides a sweeping amount of information on different allergies and the people who suffer allergic reactions. According to their information, allergies impact about 50 million people in the U.S., which creates an annual cost of roughly $18 billion. This makes allergies the 6th-leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.
A nation-wide health survey found that roughly 8.4% of children suffer from hay fever, while another 10% suffer from respiratory allergies. Among 12 to 17-year olds, the number was even higher, as 11.7% suffered from hay fever.
One of the more interesting findings of the study was that as income level rises, percentages of hay fever and respiratory allergies gradually trends higher. (See “Family income.”) This is repeated in “Poverty Status,” as only 6.1% of children considered “poor” have hay fever, while 9.9% of children classified as “not poor” have the condition.
The study only provides the findings, not possible causes for the results, but this is, at the very least, an interesting trend that is worth further exploration.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America provides even more interesting information on allergy rates and statistics. According to data compiled by this organization, allergic conditions are the single most common health issues that impact children in the United States, and people visit the emergency room about 200,000 times each year because of food allergies.
They say that the most common type of indoor and outdoor allergen is pollen, including weed, tree, and grass. Mold spores are also a top allergen, as are leavings from cockroaches, dust mites and pet dander. Allergic rhinitis, which are allergies that impact the nose and throat, impact about 6.1 million people in the U.S.
Different Regions, Different AllergensIt’s important to understand the various allergies that impact people in different regions. As you know, the U.S. is a big country with very different climates. So people in, for example, Florida, will be exposed to different irritants than people in Montana.
SoutheastIn the Southeast, which generally has a damp, warm climate, one of the main issues is mold. In this region, you will find that mold has many opportunities to grow, and it can be a serious problems for people who have allergies to mold spores. Other regions certainly have mold, but the Southeast region of the U.S. presents an ideal climate for mold growth. This region can also have high pollen levels, including grass and tree, which creates significant hay fever issues.
NortheastIn the Northeast section of the United States, you will find a wide variety of allergies that will impact your health, including high levels of pollen, mold, and dust.
Trees, for example, will release their pollen early in the spring, creating health concerns. Later in the year allergy sufferers will be subject to high ragweed levels, creating a long season of wheezing, coughing, itchy eyes, and sneezing, all of which can make sleeping extremely difficult.
MidwestHere, grass and weed pollen is common, and these plants usually release their seeds later in the season, around mid summer. The allergy season in the midwest can last well into late fall, making for months of suffering for anyone with allergies.
SouthwestIn the Southwest, one of the most common issues for air quality is dust, which can come in small, steady doses or in large concentrations dues to dust storms. Dust storms can deliver many different materials into the air, but most commonly there will be walls of sand and dirt that can harm air quality and create issues for allergy sufferers. Smoke from wildfires is also a common issue in the dry, arid southeast region.
Pacific NorthwestThe Pacific Northwest is often a wet, cool climate, which make it an ideal place for mold growth. Anyone who suffers from mold allergies and lives in the Pacific Northwest will want to take steps to reduce airborne spores in their homes. Trees are another issue in the Pacific Northwest, as this region has many trees that release their seeds in the early spring.
What are Common Allergies in the Winter?As we discussed earlier, different regions will have different types of allergy sources. However, there are a few commonalities from seasons to season.
During the winter, for example, most regions of the country will close their houses from the cold outdoor air. This is great for comfort and warmth, but it can mean that dust stays indoors and is not able to vent outside. It can also be blown throughout your home when the heating system is turned on.
The result is that higher concentrations of dust are found inside in the winter.
What are Common Allergies in the Spring?For allergy sufferers, spring is all about tree allergies. Unlike grasses and weeds, trees will release their pollen early in the spring. In fact, if the winter has been particularly mild, trees can release their allergens in February, making for a long season.
When trees release their pollen, it can float for miles and miles on the most gentle breeze. This means you don’t necessarily need to be right next to the forest to experience sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and other allergic reactions. In fact, a tree might be nowhere in sight, but during the spring you may experience allergies.
If you are allergic to trees, you may want to avoid walking or exercising near forests during the spring, as reactions will be stronger the closer you get to pollenating trees. Grass allergy season can often start in the spring.
What are the Common Allergies in the Summer?During the summer allergy sufferers can be subject to a wide range of allergens, but one of the most common, especially in the Southwest, is dust.
When the summer comes along, the air gets hotter and, in many parts of the country, the rain is less. This means that the land can start to dry and dust becomes more common. If you experience allergies caused by dust, you may find that the summer months are often the worst for your allergy symptoms.
Another common allergen is smoke from wildfires. When the land is drier in the summer, wildfires are more likely, so many people will be subject to smoke. Unfortunately, you don’t have to be allergic to smoke to experience the harmful symptoms of smoke exposure. Strong winds in the summer can also stir up mold spores and pollen that would otherwise remain on the ground. Summer is also grass pollen season in many areas.
What are Common Allergies in the Fall?The fall also experiences a wide range of allergens in the Unites States. Most years, the land is still dry from the summer, so dust can be a particular problem, as can wildfires that create blankets of smoke.
According to WebMD, ragweed is likely the biggest trigger for people who have allergies. Although ragweed tends to start releasing in late summer, its production can last well into October.
Mold is another common allergen in the fall, as damp piles of leaves create the perfect home for this fungus.
Dust mites in the house can also become allergy triggers in the fall, as they may have stayed in place through the summer but once the heater is used, they are launched into your indoor air.
Can Allergies in the U.S. Be Cured?The short (and accurate) answer is no, allergies cannot be cured. However, there are treatments that help you control your symptoms.
The closest thing to a cure we currently have for allergies is a process called immunotherapy, which essentially introduces your immune system to an allergen at a slow, steady process with the goal of teaching the immune system to ignore the invader.
Allergy shots are a type of immunotherapy. During this process, a small amount of the allergen is injected into the skin with a skin prick. For roughly half a year, the patient will receive ever-increasing amounts of the allergen from the skin prick about twice a week. Once the initial build-up period is over, the injections are given every two weeks. Treatments can last longer than five years if needed.
There is also a type of immunotherapy that is administered under the patient’s tongue. This helps avoid injections, but according to WebMD, this form of treatment is still being established by the FDA.
Immunotherapy is considered the only available option to actively change the immune system. However, the effects of therapy don’t always last, and more treatments may be needed at a later time.
Preventing Allergic RhinitisAllergies are absolutely no fun, and while curing them is virtually impossible, it is possible to reduce your allergic reactions. Allergic rhinitis doesn’t have to trouble you through the entire year; by using these simple tips, you can have fewer symptoms during every season, no matter where you live in the U.S.
The first step is avoidance. To reduce your symptoms, you need to avoid the triggers as much as possible, which may require allergy testing. If you are allergic to trees, for example, avoid the forests and other tree-filled areas during the late winter and early spring. If you are allergic to dust, keep your home and air ducts clean. The use of a high quality air purifier can help improve your indoor air quality and reduce allergy levels inside.
You can also have fewer symptoms by wearing face-masks and wash your hands to maintain clean skin. You should also avoid touching your face. Some even theorize that honey can help.
If your allergies are persistent, there are available medications, including epinephrine injections.