Allergens are the real culprits of the onset of allergic diseases, foreign bodies of different nature that come into contact with the body causing, in predisposed subjects, a reaction of the immune system that reacts by producing antibodies called immunoglobulins E (IgE). Among the most common pollens, dust mites, the hair of pets, molds ..
Pollen allergies, which normally occur with rhinitis (when the affected organ is the nose), conjunctivitis (if the eyes are involved), asthma (the most serious and less widespread form that affects the bronchi), are called pollinosis and they reach their peak in spring when their aerial concentration is higher.
The seasonality of allergies, however, varies from region to region and depends on the flowering of the herbaceous species that causes them (among the most common, the wild grasses, the olive tree, the beech, the alder …). Lately, cases of early pollen (those of birch) have been observed that occur in the period between January and April and summer episodes related to the flowering of plants such as parietaria or ambrosia. Allergies can occur at any time of life, but mostly affect the children of allergic parents (the predisposition to allergy is, in fact, hereditary). The diagnosis is made through specific tests carried out in hospitals or private laboratories that are used to confirm or deny that made by the doctor based on the symptoms. These tests, in fact, are able to identify the responsible allergens with a minimum of error.
– The prick test, suitable for all ages, is a skin test that, in one session, tests all the allergens chosen by the allergist. After applying a drop of the allergenic agent to be tested on the skin, it is passed through a needle and a small puncture is practiced on the skin. Within a few minutes, if the subject is sensitive to the injected allergen, a swelling will occur which will reach its maximum after about fifteen minutes, tending to disappear within a few hours. The final size of the protuberance establishes the degree of sensitization towards that particular allergen.
– The RAST test is a blood test aimed at tracing the IgE and is carried out in cases where the prick test is not practicable (for example, if the patient has taken antihistamines that mask the allergic reaction).
– The provocation test is performed in very rare cases when there is a discrepancy between the symptoms and the test results. Allergens are directly inhaled to the patient in nasal or bronchial provocation tests; deposited in the eye in case of conjunctival tests; administered orally (i.e. by mouth) in case of suspected food allergy.
Obviously, since there are different allergic forms, there is no one-size-fits-all cure to combat them or a single measure to be taken to prevent their onset. It goes without saying that the first step to take after establishing which allergen is causing the reaction is to keep the patient away from him as far as possible.
In the case of pollen allergy, the discussion becomes more complicated. There are, however, some small tricks that can be taken to alleviate the symptoms or avoid triggering the reaction:
– limit outdoor excursions and field trips during the pollen season and this especially in case of dry and windy days or after a storm;
– limit the opening of windows in the evening when the presence of pollen in the air is greater;
– often change the ventilation filters of the car and those of the air conditioning systems, which can become receptacles through which pollens propagate in closed environments (car, house …);
– check, before any trip or departure, the seasonal pollen map remembering that in marine locations, generally, the presence of pollen is lower;
– eliminate cigarette smoke, especially if the allergy occurs in asthmatic form.
From a pharmacological point of view, there are different therapies that can be undertaken: even for the youngest children the choice is twofold: they can, in fact, be entrusted to traditional medicine (antihistamines, bronchodilators, cortisone-based medicines ..) or to homeopathic treatments.
– Popular belief has it that the main cause of spring allergies is the presence of duvets in the air that detach from the poplars. It's false! The real culprits, in fact, are the pollens present in this period in high quantities.
– In case of possible hereditary predisposition to the allergy of the child (if, therefore, also mum or dad suffer from it), the latter must be tested at the time of weaning, to trace possible food allergies first, and then other allergic forms related bronchi or nose, eyes, skin.
– In the event that the mother suffers from an allergy, breastfeeding is particularly recommended. Through her milk, in fact, she can transmit antibodies to the newborn capable of neutralizing the allergens that cause the specific allergic form she suffers from. In this way, the baby is protected from the risk of getting sick.