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People are naturally curious about allergies. I asked myself many times “why do I have allergies, is something wrong with my immune system?” I had also heard that allergies were a sign of a strong immune system. Could this be accurate?
In this article we’ll look at allergies and their connection to the immune system. Your initial thought may be that you’re experiencing allergies because of a weak immune system but that’s not entirely true.
It could be that you’re immune system is working great, just misfiring. We’ll get to the bottom of it and explore a few simple ways to reduce allergy symptoms in your home. A few small actions can reap big rewards to reduce allergies!
My Strong Immune System and Allergies
I didn’t know I had allergies until I was an adult. Growing up I had experienced all the telltale symptoms however I was a kid and didn’t understand how I was “supposed” to feel.
Was my stuffy nose and tiredness just part of being a kid? When you grow up feeing a certain way eventually you just accept it as normal.
I was active and otherwise healthy so I tried to push through the symptoms. As the years went by I felt worse and worse and in my late 20s I was tested for a spectrum of allergies.
Guess what, I was allergic to a lot of things. Dust mites, grasses, weeds, trees, animals, molds, and yeasts. I was dumbfounded that these allergens had been affecting me for so long, untreated.
I had visited family doctors and dermatologists and neither mentioned allergies. It wasn’t until I made an appointment at an allergist did I learn of my allergies, but my first allergist wasn’t very helpful. He didn’t explain the process to me, nor did he test me for a full spectrum of allergens. With his treatment plan I didn’t improve.
It wasn’t until I found a highly rated allergist did I get the treatment I needed. The office tested me for almost 100 environmental allergens and they sat with me to discuss treatment options.
It was then that I began to understand and research why I was getting allergies and why my immune system was reacting to otherwise harmless substances.
What Happens When a Strong Immune System Misfires
Contrary to popular belief allergies are not because of a weak immune system. In fact, an immune system that is reacting to allergens shows that it is working to fight against the body’s foreign invaders.
This is a great thing when you get a cold or infection, however it’s completely unnecessary when you’re outside exercising and your body begins to freak out over pollen in the air.
One of the reasons researchers believe allergies are on the rise is a result of our clean environment. With fewer bacteria to fight off our immune system is underutilized and begins to fight off things that are harmless.
Consider this: Only 100 years ago antibiotics were discovered. Their discovery allowed humans to easily get rid of infections, intestinal worms, and other harmful bacteria that had lived within us (and evolved with us) for millennia. Suddenly (relative to human history) we begin living more “clean” and anytime we become sick we can take antibiotics to clear our system.
In theory, there are a few problems with this. 1) Our bodies evolved over 1000s of years and the recent discovery/use of antibiotics is a huge change (mostly good) 2) Bacteria and other organisms like hookworms were commonly found in our body and our immune system was constantly occupied fighting them 3) Antibiotics not only kill bad things in our body but also good bacteria (something we’re learning more about everyday).
Also consider high levels of pollutions and more frequent bathing (and the invention of soap).
Compared to history, we’re living in a sterile environment and it makes sense our immune system is misfiring. If you’re really into learning about allergies and the immune system I recommend reading this amazing article that shares where current research is headed (much of it deals with gut bacteria).
Possible Symptoms of a Strong Immune System Misfiring
When our system misfires it causes an allergic reaction. It’s annoying, right?
But if we have a cold-causing bacteria in our nose the stuffiness we’re experiencing would be a good thing. Nasal congestion is a build up of mucous and blood which help fight off the bad guys.
The same holds true when our eyes water profusely when coming into contact with allergy inducing dust mites. If there was a real invader in our eye the excessive watering would be great! It would help flush out our eye and protect us. But not when it’s a harmless dust mite.
Symptoms of a strong yet, overactive immunes system include:
Excessive eye watering
Eye and nose swelling (redness)
Eye and sinus congestion
Post nasal drip
Excessive mucus production in the throat
Red welts or rash after being in contact with an allergen
Fatigue (if your immune system is working in overdrive)
If these symptoms occasionally occur then that’s a positive sign your immune system is active. It’s only when the symptoms are persistent and chronic that it becomes a problem.
Our bodies shouldn’t be fighting off allergens like dust mites that are present year-round.
Possible Impacts Of Allergies (Can Allergies Lead To Other Health Problems)
In today’s society, we often hear people complain of allergies. For most people, this is a minor problem that might coincide with tree blooms or because of a pet in the home. Most people can deal with minor allergies without it affecting their life. The real problems occur when allergies become chronic, moderate-to-severe, and impact us mentally and physically.
Growing up I had allergies but it didn’t keep me from having a good time. I enjoyed my youth, was social, and played sports. It wasn’t until my allergies progressed in my 20s did they begin to affect other parts of my life.
I stopped going out to social activities and due to my exhaustion, I prioritized sleepover fun. I also stopped exercising because my symptoms would worsen after activity.
Depression, anxiety, and a lack of confidence are health implications that can occur with untreated allergies. If you have children it’s extremely important to monitor their allergies.
While many kids “grow out” of their allergies, other kids like me develop more severe allergies that can affect their entire life. Catching them early might reduce the severity of allergies and their chance of developing depression, anxiety, and a lack of confidence.
How To Give Relief To Strong Immune System
As someone who’s battle allergies (unknowingly and knowingly) for a long time, I have a list of things I do to keep my allergy symptoms at bay. Rest, exercise, supplements are all part of an everyday routine that gives my skin, symptoms, and immune system relief.
Although it’s difficult to keep my immune system from misfiring, I can take steps in my environment to reduce my allergies. Here is my list below:
Discover What The Allergies Are
Knowing what your allergies are can pay big dividends. I had allergy symptoms my whole life but didn’t know what I was allergic to.
Even worse, my symptoms were always delayed so an allergy might bother me one day but my reactions manifested the following day. This made my allergies really confusing.
Once I was tested, it opened a whole new opportunity to prevent allergies. I could evaluate my living environment, look at pollen reports online and adjust my day accordingly. My allergic reactions began to make sense!
Related: My Experience With Allergy Shots
Antihistamines help reduce the allergic response by suppressing the histamine response. Histamine is a protective mechanism produced by our body that causes swelling and redness and is a very important part of our body.
It’s not, however, good when histamine is being released because of harmless things like pollen and dust mites.
I take a daily antihistamine and it helps block the allergic response. One 24-hour Allegra is my go-to antihistamine and it’s over-the-counter which is perfect.
Reduce Allergy Exposure
One of the easiest things you can do is to reduce exposure to allergens in the home. We spend at least half our lives indoors and whether it’s sleeping or cooking the air in our homes is important.
I take precautions in my bedroom and in the living areas. Although there is some upfront cost to improve air quality and hygiene, the rewards more than pay off over time. Invest in some of these items and your immune system will thank you.
Bed Covers (Help Pollen too)
Dust mite proof bed covers are essential for people with allergies. Bed covers should go over the mattress, the pillow, and your comforter.
The best mattress covers for allergies are cotton or microfiber and they are breathable so they don’t cause sweating. Dust mites love our beds where they reproduce, eat out dead skin, and defecate.
They are highly allergic and can cause rashes and asthma. But mattress covers also work well for pollen and pet allergies by keeping them out of our beds.
Air Filters for Allergies
An HVAC air filter seems like a strange way to improve the air in the home but they work. Most people don’t know the difference between the best HVAC allergy filter and a basic one.
My family always used the cheapest available filter from the hardware store. If you’re allergic you have to search to find HVAC allergy filters because they are much less common. But don’t worry, they exist and they work great!
HEPA Air Purifier for Allergies
A standard air purifier does little to stop your allergens. Porous filters allow pollen, dust mites, and pet dander to move right through the air purifier but the best HEPA air purifiers are specifically designed for allergies. They work more like a fan than a purifier.
HEPA air purifiers capture invisible allergens and can purifier the air in a home multiple times a day. For kids with severe allergies and asthma, a HEPA air purifier can be a lifesaver – literally.
These days HEPA air purifiers come with lifetime warranties and are made to run 24 hours a day. This is a must-have for people like me that have indoor allergies.
Reduce Carpeting for Allergies
An easy trick is to reduce the carpeting in a home. If you rent this can be next to impossible so I’d recommend choosing your apartment wisely.
Look for tiles or wood flooring because it’s easy to clean and dust mites can’t live inside. Carpeting attracts and holds onto dust, pollen, and pet dander. Although it’s comfy, carpet is really bad for allergy sufferer and impossible to clean – even if you vacuum diligently.
Reduce Pet Presence for Allergies
Most allergy sufferers will not follow through with this strategy, but it is an option because it works. Dogs and cats are major allergens in the U.S. but what makes their allergens worse is that they usually live indoors alongside us. In the old days dogs and cats lived outside…not anymore.
If you do have pet dander allergy we recommend making a change. Chances are you won’t give up your pet, but maybe they can spend more time outside (or not).
Vacuum with HEPA filter
Whether you’re vacuuming on a hard surface or carpet your choice of vacuum matters. Most people think that all vacuums are the same, but once you have allergies you’ll understand “HEPA” very well.
The best HEPA vacuums will capture the smallest allergens while standard vacs just get the big items. This is the main reason I always felt ill growing up after I vacuumed (you’re supposed to feel better after vacuuming).
Reduce Humidity for Allergies
Reducing humidity for allergies can help out a lot if you live in the Mid-West, East, or South where humidity is high in the summer. While moist air can be great for people with asthma, moisture is problematic for people with dust mite allergy. Dust mites absorb their water from the air (they don’t drink) so a humid house can experience a boom in dust mite population.
In addition to dust mites, mold develops in humid homes with poor air circulation. If you have allergies, chances are you might be allergic to molds that are outside and inside. Mold thrives in basements, attics, and in shower rooms. The best dehumidifier will reduce humidity inside the house and reduce the opportunity for mold to grow.
Reduce Use of Fans (blow air around the house)
I’m so sensitive I can’t sleep with a fan. Fans stir up dust from the floor and blow it around the room. It can include pollen, dust mites and their feces, and pet dander.
If you’re really sensitive to allergens you want the air to be still. An air purifier is ok because it sucks in air from the room and blows out pure air.
Are allergies a sign of a strong immune system? The answer is yes. On one hand it’s great to have an immune system that is firing, but on the other hand, it can be frustrating because it’s misfiring on things it shouldn’t react to.
My immune system was always reacting to allergens but unfortunately I didn’t catch it early enough. My allergies became worse and my immune system reacted more strongly.
The immune system goes through the most development when we are children. Genetic factors, antibiotics, cleanliness, and pollution likely all have some effect on whether we develop allergies or not. Interestingly, allergies are significantly less prevalent in kids who grow up on farms.
In recent years my worst symptoms were nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes, skin rashes, and my worst symptom was fatigue. I was constantly tired and could hardly make it through a day.
I’ve used specific strategies to reduce my allergy symptoms and calm my strong immune system. These include daily antihistamines, bed covers for allergies, HEPA air purifiers, HVAC filters for allergies, HEPA vacuums, reducing carpeting and pets indoors, and reducing humidity.
If your allergies are moderate to severe, consider implementing a few of the above strategies and you’ll likely see a difference in your allergy symptoms. It’s great to know that my allergies are a sign of a strong immune system, but at the same time I wish it worked correctly.
As researchers continue to study the immune system and allergies, do your part to identify your allergies and treat them with simple lifestyle changes. If I can do it so can you!