Hay fever - an overreaction of the immune system

With spring, hay fever sufferers are once again facing a stressful time: according to SMA Meteo Switzerland, almost 15 percent of the Swiss population suffer from pollen allergy. Pollen of certain trees, grasses, cereals and herbs cause swollen noses, itchy eyes and a constant sneeze in those affected.

How does hay fever develop?

Hay fever, unlike the common cold, is not caused by viruses but by pollen. They contain proteins, which lead to an overreaction of the immune system in appropriately sensitized people. The pollen allergy is not innate. It is only developed by repeated contact with the allergens. The predisposition itself is passed on through the genes. Children of allergy sufferers have a significantly higher risk of contracting. The same applies if the parents are heavy smokers or the children were not breastfed as babies or only for a short time.

What do the pollens trigger in the body?

The over-sensitive immune system wants to get rid of the erroneously recognized as dangerous intruders as soon as possible again and lets go to his entire defensive team: As soon as the bee pollen pollinated the nose and eyes, the body mobilizes against the foreign protein special antibodies. They sit on the so-called mast cells, which in turn release certain tissue hormones, including histamine, which leads to the typical symptoms of hay fever.

Tips for allergy sufferers

Allergens that are absorbed through the breath, are difficult to turn off completely. However, some measures can bring some relief in everyday life:

  • Wear outdoor (sun) glasses with side protection. This way, the pollen can not get into your eyes so easily.
  • On nice, dry days as little as possible go outdoors (pollen flight!).
  • Before going to bed take a shower and wash your hair. In this way you inhale less pollen at night.
  • Regular dusting and vacuuming, but not by the affected person.

The pollen season differs from country to country and may even be different in each region. In general, however, it can be said that the trees have their main flowering period from February to April. At this time it is usually the early flowering hazel, alder and birch that cause hay fever. The grasses bloom between May and July. Hay fever, which occurs later or persists throughout the year, is most commonly caused by fungal spores.

That's what the allergist does:

First, the doctor must determine with the help of skin tests, which pollen is allergic to. Antihistamines and cortisone may be used to relieve acute symptoms. As a long-term prophylaxis, hyposensitization is used. For three years, the allergy-inducing substance is administered in slowly increasing doses. This treatment reduces symptoms by 60 to 80 percent. This treatment is also important, because in about one third of hay fever patients the disease leads to allergic asthma after five to ten years.

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