Spring forward… Fall back down?
Do you feel tired as the weather improves? Read on!
Spring is here, the birds are chirping—but you just want to go back to bed. You may think it’s an illness coming on but don’t notice any other symptoms right away. “People can just feel wiped out… just this general malaise and fatigue,” says PacMed allergist John Knutson, MD.
According to Dr. Knutson, even if you don’t notice sneezing or sniffles, this could be allergies. “One thing that really surprises people is the fatigue that can develop.
A lot of my patients start dragging in the spring. Fatigue is an important symptom that’s sometimes overlooked.”
Allergic fatigue can easily be confused with catching a late winter virus—because sometimes it leads to that.
“Allergic rhinitis and allergies in general can make you more prone to catching an illness,” says Dr. Knutson. “Because you have this allergic response, you have a lot of inflammation going on in your upper airway. That creates a non-healthy mucosa, and it gives viruses more access to take hold in the upper airway.”
However, if you treat the allergies as soon as you feel fatigue, you can likely avoid getting sick at all. Dr. Knutson recommends a few do-it-yourself treatment approaches.
“One thing that really helps, that I recommend to almost every patient, is nasal saline rinsing—like a neti pot— because that helps restore the mucosa back to a better healthy state,” he explains. “It flushes out allergens; it liquefies any thick secretions and removes them. It’s a mild decongestant, and it helps to heal that upper airway. So that’s a really good thing to do.” Dr. Knutson recommends over-the-counter antihistamines and topical steroids as well.
While the feeling of malaise or fatigue can sometimes last for days or weeks, says Dr. Knutson, “Once patients get treated, they feel so much better.”While the feeling of malaise or fatigue can sometimes last for days or weeks, says Dr. Knutson, “Once patients get treated, they feel so much better.”
Allergic fatigue “can sometimes fool people,” says Dr. Knutson—and that’s not the only misunderstood allergic effect. Another is pollen food syndrome.
“You’re eating a banana, and your mouth thinks you’re trying to eat ragweed, and it kind of goes crazy,” Dr. Knutson describes. That’s because “the proteins [in a fruit or vegetable] are similar to proteins that are in pollens.” He goes on to explain that the immune system in the mouth senses the banana’s proteins, but it “may think that, ‘Oh, that’s ragweed in our mouth.’”
If you’re confused by an allergic reaction to a fruit or vegetable, try cooking it—like making banana bread or applesauce. “The cooked versions of those proteins are denatured, and you don’t react to it,” he explains.
Like many allergies, food pollen syndrome tends to be seasonal. Dr. Knutson shares, “I can’t eat cantaloupe during the weed pollen season—my mouth goes crazy—and the rest of the year, I eat it fine.”
Also on the horizon of interesting allergy news might be the effects of allergies in patients living with autoimmune diseases, as being studied by the Benaroya Research Institute. As summed up by Dr. Knutson, the article “talks about autoimmune problems and allergy problems as essentially dysregulation of the immune system.”
There is not much data yet to allow us to draw conclusions, but our understanding of some lesser-known manifestations of allergies may be growing in the near future.
For more interesting effects of allergies, including pollen food syndrome, see the full article at http://www.PacMed.org/allergic- fatigue. PacMed Allergy and Immunology are here to help with hay fever and whatever else tickles your nose.