Seasonal allergies caused by airborne pollens, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a common condition that can have significant impact on quality of life. Allergy sufferers often experience cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. Dr. Robert Schellenberg, HLI Investigator and Head of Allergy and Immunology at St. Paul’s Hospital discusses the science behind spring allergies in this Daily Scan article.
Allergy symptoms are caused by pollen binding to allergen-specific IgE (the allergic antibody) that are attached to mast cells in the nose, eyes, and lungs. This binding triggers the release of histamine and several other compounds that cause allergy symptoms. The likelihood for developing seasonal allergies is
hereditary, but is also linked to an individual’s microbiota (collection of bacteria that colonizes the gut, lungs, and skin) and environmental factors.
Many treatment options are available for symptom relief. In addition to over-the-counter medications, patients with severe allergies may be prescribed nasal sprays and eye drops. To truly provide long term benefit, patients may undergo immunotherapy (allergy shots) to decrease the allergic antibody and build protective immunity. The latest advances in allergy research may actually target the allergic antibody IgE to decrease its production in the body. However, the high costs of these new biologic treatments will likely limit these strategies for severe asthma or eczema.