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    Allergies and sensitivities during seasonal changes, by Medshield

    Seasonal changes bring about beautiful transformations in nature, but for many individuals, they also usher in a host of allergy and sensitivity triggers. From pollen and mould to dust mites and pet dander, these allergens can cause various symptoms, whether mild discomfort or severe respiratory issues.
    Allergies and sensitivities during seasonal changes, by Medshield

    In South Africa, seasonal changes can trigger allergens and sensitivities that affect individuals depending on their region and local climate. Some common symptoms to look out for include nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, skin rashes or hives, or shortness of breath.

    Common triggers of allergic reactions and how to manage them

    1. Pollen is prevalent during spring and summer when plants, trees, and grasses release pollen into the air for reproduction. Common pollen allergens in South Africa include grass pollen from species such as Bermuda grass and ryegrass and tree pollen from indigenous trees like cedar, cypress, and olive trees.

    • Pollen counts are typically higher on warm, dry, and windy days, so consider staying indoors during peak pollen times. Wear a pollen mask when gardening or outdoors to reduce exposure to airborne allergens.
    • Keep windows closed during high pollen seasons and use air conditioning to filter indoor air.
    • Remove shoes and outer clothing when entering your home to prevent indoor tracking of pollen and allergens.

    2. Mould spores thrive in damp and humid environments, making them a common trigger for allergies, especially during the rainy season and in areas with high humidity. Indoor mould growth can occur in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and other places with poor ventilation or water leaks.

    • Use dehumidifiers to maintain indoor humidity below 50%, as mould thrives in humid environments.
    • Fix leaks and address water damage promptly to prevent mould growth in your home.

    3. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that thrive in household dust, bedding, upholstery, and carpets. Dust mite allergies can worsen during seasonal changes when increased humidity levels create favourable conditions for dust mite proliferation.

    4. Pet dander allergies may be more evident during seasonal changes when pets shed their fur more heavily or spend more time indoors due to inclement weather. Proteins in pets' skin flakes, saliva, and urine can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

    • Consider investing in air purifiers to remove allergens from indoor air. Regularly vacuum carpets and upholstery using a vacuum cleaner to trap dust mites and pet dander.
    • Wash bedding and curtains frequently in hot water to eliminate dust mites and allergens.

    5. Grasses and weeds are abundant in South Africa, and their pollen can trigger allergies, particularly during the spring and summer. Common grass allergens include Bermuda grass, ryegrass, and Timothy grass, while common weed allergens include ragweed and pigweed.

    6. Insect stings from bees, wasps, and ants can cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Insect activity may increase during warmer months, making allergic reactions to insect stings more common during seasonal changes.

    7. Food allergies are not exclusively seasonal, but certain foods may be more prevalent or consumed more frequently during specific seasons, leading to increased exposure and potential allergic reactions. Examples of seasonal foods that may trigger allergies include certain fruits and vegetables such as mangoes, strawberries, tomatoes, or cucumbers harvested during particular times of the year.

    • Over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays can relieve allergy symptoms. Consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for recommendations on suitable medications.
    • Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be recommended for individuals with severe allergies to help desensitise the immune system over time.
    • If allergy symptoms persist despite taking preventive measures and over-the-counter medications, consult an allergist or immunologist for a comprehensive evaluation and personalised treatment plan.

    Stay informed for better management

    Seasonal changes can be challenging for individuals with allergies and sensitivities. Still, with proper management strategies and proactive measures, it is possible to minimise symptoms and enjoy the beauty of each season.

    Staying informed, implementing allergy-proofing techniques, and seeking professional guidance can help individuals take control of their allergies and sensitivities, leading healthier, more comfortable lives year-round. It's essential to be aware of potential triggers during seasonal changes and take proactive measures to minimise exposure, such as staying indoors during high pollen or mould spore counts, using air purifiers, regularly cleaning and vacuuming, and avoiding known allergens.

    Consulting with a healthcare provider or allergist for personalised advice and treatment options can also help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with seasonal allergies and sensitivities. Before undergoing immunotherapy for allergies, confirm whether your medical scheme and Medshield benefit option cover such treatment to avoid incurring costs.

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