We have all survived another winter and seeing as spring is right around the corner, many allergy sufferers are gearing up for yet another allergy season.
This applies specifically to truck drivers as many of you are exposed to large quantities such things as dust and chemicals on a daily basis.
An allergy is simply an abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system to a foreign substance.
In most people, the particular substance produces no symptoms, but in certain persons it triggers an allergic reaction.
If you remember from previous articles, the immune system normally protects the body against harmful substances such as bacteria and viruses.
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system reacts to substances that are generally harmless and in most people do not cause an immune response. Most allergies are mild and merely unpleasant, and they are easily treated with medications and natural remedies.
However, in severe cases, such as food or drug allergies it can be life-threatening.
In a person with allergies, the first exposure to the foreign substance (allergen) triggers the immune system to recognize and catalog the substance. Subsequently, the body’s immune system begins to form antibodies against the allergen, and certain types of white blood cells become sensitive to it.
Later exposure to the allergen will stimulate specialized cells called mast cells to release histamine, the chemical that triggers the allergic response.
Allergies often develop in childhood and may either persist or disappear in adulthood.
The symptoms of allergies vary from person to person.
Symptoms vary depending on what is causing the reaction and the part of the body in which the reaction occurs.
We all know what a person with allergies looks like; frequently sneezing or wheezing, red and itchy eyes, blocked or runny nose, hives and rashes.
Some food and drug allergies lead to more severe symptoms such as swelling of the throat and mouth, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
If these more serious symptoms are not treated immediately it could lead to death.
Now that you know what the causes and symptoms of allergies are, let’s talk about how it is identified and diagnosed.
First of all, your health care professional will take a detailed history of your condition including whether the symptoms vary according to time of day, season, exposure to pets and other potential allergens and diet changes.
Allergy testing may be required to determine if your symptoms are an actual allergy or caused by other problems.
For example, eating contaminated food (food poisoning) may result in symptoms that resemble food allergies.
You may also be required to undergo further testing such as skin and blood tests to identify the specific allergies
Once a specific allergy is identified, your physician will discuss your treatment options.
The most common and easiest treatment is to avoid the allergens that affect you.
This might mean that you will have to avoid such things as dust and pollen.
If this method is not successful, there are many antiallergy drugs available over-the-counter or by prescription.
For example allergies can be blocked by nasal sprays that contain cromolyn sodium or corticosteroids.
Nasal sprays that contain decongestants can relieve symptoms but should not be used regularly.
Oral antihistamines are often combined with decongestants to relieve inflammation and itching. If all of the above treatments are unsuccessful, the most specific treatment for allergies is immunotherapy.
This type of therapy involves the patient being injected with gradually increasing doses of allergen with the aim of desensitizing the immune system.
This treatment, which typically takes as long as three to four years, is often successful.
Lastly, here are a few simple hints to keeping your truck allergen free:
* Avoid keeping furry animals as pets in your truck if you are allergic to them;
* Replace pillows and quilts containing animal materials such as duck feathers with those containing synthetic stuffing;
* Cover mattresses with plastic;
* Remove dust collecting items such as curtains from your bunk;
* Keep doors and windows closed and use you’re A/C to keep the allergens out of your truck;
* Make sure you truck is fitted with an effective pollen filter;
* When loading and unloading your truck, wear proper eye protection to help prevent eye irritation.
This spring when you’re sneezing and your eyes are watering, keep in mind the simple hints. Until next month, drive safely!
– Dr. Christopher Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 888-252-7327.