I’ve suffered from allergies my entire life. I viewed them as an annoying, but not serious, problem until one fateful spring day, shortly after I turned thirteen. I had mowed the lawn for the first time. When I walked into the house–initially proud of my accomplishment–I promptly began fainting and vomiting. I vaguely recall walking around the house in a delirious stupor, my eyes beginning to swell shut, itching from head to toe, and struggling to breathe, as my mother’s fiance (a doctor) gave me a large dose of Benadryl. After I regained my senses and felt more or less normal, my family informed me that I’d suffered a serious, acute allergic reaction. Had I not responded quickly to the Benadryl, I would have been wheeled off the the E.R. in an ambulance.
My own experience demonstrates the serious complications that can occur from “normal” seasonal allergies. In my case, the kicked-up Bermuda grass pollen triggered what could have been a fatal reaction. I now have a great excuse to never mow the lawn again, but I’m always on the lookout for other complications of allergies. Here are some other complications, according to the Mayo Clinic, which may arise from seasonal allergies.
1. Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis, or a severe allergic reaction, is rare as a result of seasonal allergies. Most cases of anaphylaxis arise from food allergies, medicine allergies or allergies to insect stings. Rarely though, people with severe allergies may develop anaphylaxis from inhaled allergens such as pollen, pet dander and dust mold. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include rapid heart rate, dizziness, vomiting, hives, difficulty breathing and delirium.
2. Sinus and ear infections. Seasonal allergies can lead to complications, including infections in your ears and sinuses. Chronic congestion can weaken your immune response to the bacteria that invade these sensitive areas, leading to mild, moderate or–rarely–severe infections in your ears or sinuses. These may require treatment with antibiotics or decongestants.
3. Skin problems. If you have seasonal allergies, you’re more likely to develop eczema, or atoptic dermatitis–a skin condition associated with red, dry, flaky skin. You may also develop hives, which are itchy red bumps that occur during an allergic reaction (I still get these every grass pollen season). Other allergy sufferers become unusually prone to contact dermatitis–an itchy rash that occurs after touching an allergen or irritant.
4. Asthma. Some people with seasonal allergies also have allergy-induced asthma, which causes swelling and inflammation in the airways. This leads to serious complications, including difficulty breathing, hospitalization, and (rarely) death. If you have allergies, keep an eye out for asthma and related symptoms. Seek prompt treatment if you do experience an asthma attack.
5. Other allergies. If you have seasonal allergies, it’s more likely that you’ll have allergies to other potential culprits, such as dust, mold, pet dander, latex, foods, insect venom, or medications. Keep an eye out for symptoms of these conditions. An allergy test by your physician can help to determine what else you might be allergic to.
6. Reduced quality of life. Seasonal allergies can tremendously affect your quality of life, particularly if they do not respond to treatment. In serious cases, persistent seasonal allergies can affect your work productivity and social life. No one feels like carousing around town with friends or working hard in the office while coping with burning eyes, a runny nose, and itchy skin. If your allergies are significant enough to affect your work, school, or social life, talk to your health care provider about stronger treatments.