Why Spring Can Be Health Hell (And What To Do About It)
Sneezing, itching, wheezing... what's not to love?
Spring is a time of the year when lamb gambol around the fields, flowers bloom, the world looks a little brighter... and for nearly 4.5 million Australians it also means hayfever.
According to recent survey by Zyrtec, the worst part about hayfever is what they call "Allergy Face" -- that runny nose, those itchy eyes, that red skin, now they can all be real spring delights, can't they?-- with 45 per cent of people surveyed feeling sick, 42 per cent feeling unhappy and 31 per cent stressed when experiencing them. Nearly one fifth of the people they spoke to admit to having skipped a social occasion to avoid them and many said they skipped dinners with friends because of hayfever.
Spring is kinda tough for some people, right?
And it's not just hayfever you have to watch out for. Think skin conditions like eczema flaring up, asthma, chafing... it's a minefield, people.
Let's just all stay in.
So why do some of us suffer with "allergy face" and others breeze around mowing lawns and sniffing roses without a care in the world?
According to Dr Andrew Rochford, it's just luck.
Everyone’s immune system is kind of like our defense mechanism and it’s set up to protect us against all the things that are harmful to us -- it’s why when you get a virus or bacteria your body has an immune response, because it has recognised it's foreign and it needs to do everything to kill it."
"The problem with allergies," he continued, "is for some people their body doesn’t necessarily recognise that pollen or dust is harmless -- so it has an overly exuberant response, which is the allergic response. For some of us we go outside and the flowers are blooming and the grass is sending its pollen into the air, it doesn't affect us -- we ‘re exposed to the triggers but our body ignores it and we get on with life. People who suffer from hayfever triggered by pollen, their body just fires up that immune response."
And because you're breathing the allergens into your airways -- the nose and eye and back of throat -- you get the red puffy eyes, runny nose, redness round the nose. Cue classic allergy face.
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How to get over it? Well, you could try desensitising yourself...
"Our immune system can learn" agreed Andrew. "For some people whose immune system has allergic responses to certain things there is more and more research moving towards desensitisation and whether you can expose people to small amounts of allergens so they get trained to realise it’s not a harmful thing. It does stand to reason you can get desensitised to certain triggers -- the problem with hayfever is you’re not necessarily exposed to those allergens a lot of the time.
The other option is an antihistamine. "Histamine is the thing your body releases that causes all these symptoms," said Andrew, "so taking an antihistamine settles it down so you can get on with your life."
Hayfever isn't the only rubbish thing to come with the warmer weather. Oh no. Think skin rashes and other unsightly stuff.
Don't know why we bother...
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"People do see a flare up of skin things at this time of year, or with any change of season," said Andrew. "There is a change in what your skin is exposed to. Skin is your largest organ but we don’t think about it in the same way as we think about our heart and our lungs and our liver, so we don't think about looking after it in the same way. In spring, you start to sweat a little bit more as it warms up, the humidity changes, the environment changes and you can end up with inflammation, rashes, redness and/or itchiness. For some people it's an allergy response, for some people it’s a flare up of a chronic condition like eczema and psoriasis."
To help with your skin issues, you should make sure you do everything you can to look after it -- just like you would look after your other organs. "Moisturise, clean yourself properly, wear the right types of clothes when you’re exercising, and whatever you do, wear sunscreen -- UV exposure is a big thing in the warmer months," advised Andrew.
And you asthmatics don't get off lightly when the seasons change either, do you? With pollen count, fibres in the air, dust and smoke from backburning, "for people with asthma or chronic lung disease, they’re going to be triggered by those things," Andrew said. "And at certain times of the year those triggers can be more prevalent."
Cold air and exercise can be a trigger for asthmatics, so that spring time burst of exercise for the summer body can cause problems. Andrew suggests, "change of season brings new exposures for the body and if you have a chronic condition they can be flared up. For some people it’s just about readjusting for that different time of year." And make sure you have the correct medication if needed.
Ah spring. You hold a host of tissues -- we mean issues -- but we still love you.
Feature image: Getty