Have you noticed there’s a particular time of year where you find yourself sneezing non-stop? Your eyes itch constantly, they tear up frequently and seem to always look red or it looks like you have bruises under them? Maybe your throat and mouth feel itchy and it feels like mucus is running down the back of your throat. If you find yourself experiencing these, you may have a seasonal allergy. 

Allergies aren’t something you want to be born with or be unlucky enough to develop. They are annoying, disruptive, painful and can even pose long term health risks. There are several causes of allergies that affect people differently ranging from the severity to the type of reactions one might experience. 

I, for one, am significantly affected by seasonal allergies. They appeared in my life 5 years ago and since then I’ve dreaded every summer. During this season my life becomes increasingly difficult as the days roll on.

I am unable to sleep because I can’t breath through my nose. During the days my eyes itch and are always red. I sneeze and blow my nose to the point that it starts to bruise. It’s awful. I believe it’s important to share our experiences with allergies to highlight the challenges and possibly support others to find solutions.

Allergies are caused by triggers called allergens; what may be an allergen to one person is harmless to another. Common allergens include dust, pollen, insect stings, chemicals, some foods and pet hair. When an allergen enters your body it is treated as a foreign substance and considered dangerous.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, the immune system responds to the presence of allergens by releasing chemicals that typically cause symptoms in the nose, throat, eyes, ears, skin or roof of the mouth. This is called a reaction and is designed to protect the body and remove the allergen.

Although there are many different allergens and symptoms that can be caused by coming in contact with allergens, they can be categorized into these 4 main types of allergic reactions: immediate, cytotoxic, immune complex-mediated and delayed hypersensitivity. Each presents a variety of symptoms and levels of seriousness.

There are many telltale symptoms that can occur when someone is experiencing an allergic reaction, many are different depending on the allergen.The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies (allergies based on plants) are sneezing, watery eyes and swelling of the mouth.  

Allergies impacting the skin are often recognized by hives, rashes, pain and red skin. Anaphylaxis, the most severe form of reaction can be recognized by difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, swelling and shock. This is a potentially life threatening situation and should be reported to emergency medical services as soon as possible.

A student’s experience

Photo by Michael

Tenth grade student Zach V. shares his experience with allergies and the challenges they have presented in school. Zach explains that he is allergic to pollen and other airborne, plant based seasonal allergens. Zach mentions that he mainly experiences these allergies at the beginning of the year and in spring but they can return at almost any point in the year.

“Allergies often make it hard for me to focus.”

Zach V

Allergies often cause a student to lose focus due to symptoms like sneezing. However, can allergies cause more significant interruption to school activities? Grade 10 student Nikola R. experienced  a situation where his allergy interfered with school.

“Sometimes the food isn’t labeled correctly where they say that they didn’t have peanuts and I had to go to the nurse.” 

Nikola has also experienced times when he was not able to participate in a class activity due to his allergy.

“There was this science experiment where they were burning peanuts to find out the energy in them, but that was good that I didn’t do that because I have no idea what would happen If I inhaled burning gasses from a peanut.”

Having now seen the difficulties with allergies, we now must think more about the difficulties our fellow students with allergies may experience on a daily basis, and the dangers of giving an allergen like a peanut to an allergic student.

Dried pollen and dust on my window; medicine and tissues inside.