It's summertime and living should be easy, right? But if you're prone to seasonal allergies, you may find that the high pollen count that comes with the warmer weather leaves you coughing and sneezing. Worse yet, some doctors now believe that when your allergy symptoms are left untreated, you're at increased risk of them turning into pneumonia or another serious illness.

The Relationship Between Allergies and Infection

For some allergy sufferers, the beauty of spring and summer is obscured by the stuffy, blurry eyed, miserable state that goes along with it. That's because at this time of year, grass, plants, and trees release pollen into the air that can cause your immune system overreact and result in that telltale allergy itchy eyes, nose, throat, stuffy nose or sneezing and even congestion in your upper respiratory system. While these symptoms alone are enough to make you feel miserable, when they remain for any length of time, it's also easy for them to worsen into an infection.

To better understand the relationship, consider the logistics. With allergies, as with the common cold, you usually experienced swelling in the nasal passages and airways and an increase in mucus production. The swelling can trap the mucus in the passages so it's unable to drain. If the passages remain blocked, this can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria to grow and cause a secondary infection to occur, such as sinus or respiratory infection, or even pneumonia.

Concern about Allergies and Infections

While the allergy and infection connection is nothing new, over the past few years doctors have been becoming increasingly concerned because the problem seems to be growing in magnitude. One reason is that with global warming effects, allergy season seems to be coming earlier than ever before and pollen counts are higher and more widespread. As a result, more people are suffering with severe allergies and for longer amounts of time, increasing the likelihood of the symptoms progressing into an infection.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that many seasonal allergy suffers also experience allergic asthma, which increases their likelihood of experiencing respiratory complications.

What You Can Do

The best defense to keep yourself from experiencing the allergy and infection relationship yourself this summer is to take some easy steps to keep your symptoms in check. For instance:

  • Check the pollen count each day and stay in when it's expected to be high.
  • Wash your hair and clothes after spending time outside.
  • Shut the windows and run the air condition at home on warm days when pollen is prevalent in the air.
  • Take over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications to head off your symptoms.
  • Talk to your allergist about immunization therapy if your allergies don't seem to respond to medications.
  • Also ask your doctor if you're a good candidate for getting a pneumonia shot.
  • Treat any congestion and other nasal and respiratory discomfort you experience promptly with steam, a neti pot, decongestants and any other treatments your doctor suggests.

Also remember that when your allergy symptoms seem especially severe, linger for more than a few days or suddenly seem to be getting worse, always seek medical care to make sure you don't have an infection. If you do, by treating it right away you can often head off pneumonia or other complications.



Dr. Sears

Science Daily