The Atopic Triad - Hay Fever, Eczema & Asthma
By Taya Hosking - 26/11/22
Signs, Symptoms and Prevention
What Is Hay Fever?
Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is an allergic response triggered by your immune system. It occurs when your nose or eyes come into contact with allergens to which you are sensitive, resulting in your body to react.
This can lead to swelling and inflammation within the nose (rhinitis).
It’s most common in Spring when flowers are blooming, grass is growing and pollens are flowing (1).
Symptoms of Hay Fever
Although they may differ from person to person, the most common symptoms people endure with hay fever include:
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Runny, blocked or itchy nose
- Frequent sneezing
- Scratchy throat
- Unable to breathe through nose
Each individual will be sensitive to different allergens and different quantities of the allergen, however the most common are:
- Dust mites and dust
- Grass, flowers and pollen
- Animal fur & dander (skin)
I’m sure you are wondering, is there any way that you can combat your annoying symptoms? Well, you may not be able to stop it however you can limit it.
Allergy testing is a great way to determine what allergens may provoke your immune system. Allergy testing can be done through a skin prick test or blood test.
The skin prick method involves pricking the skin and placing the allergen onto it.
If you are sensitive to it, your immune system will cause the skin to react, and therefore this is how allergens are determined.
If you can’t avoid all allergens, there are a number of medications on the market that can be used to reduce symptoms. These include:
Antihistamines - assist in managing the symptoms of hay fever by blocking the action of the histamine (histamines are released in response to exposure to an allergen). Therefore, the antihistamine, is against the ‘histamine’ in your body.
Decongestant sprays/tablets - they assist in unblocking and drying the nasal passages through either spray form or oral form.
Corticosteroids - steroids aid in reducing inflammation in the body, and therefore in hayfever sufferers, taking corticosteroids can assist in reducing the inflammation in the lining of the nose.
This helps to reduce symptoms of hay fever. As they are steroids, they should be used with caution.
Hay Fever & Eczema
The same inhaled allergens which cause sneezing can also result in red, inflamed bumps and welts on the skin.
Although they may not be a direct response to the hay fever, rashes such as eczema and contact dermatitis often co-occur with hay fever.
The rashes develop when the body has an immune response to substances within the air (dust, grass, pet dander). When these allergies are inhaled, the cells of your body release histamines. When these histamines are released into the dermis, it results in a reaction in the skin.
Contact dermatitis results when your skin touches a substance that you are allergic to, resulting in a rash. Both hay fever and contact dermatitis can occur independently from each other however they can also occur alongside each other due to a shared allergen (2).
On the other hand, hay fever does not cause eczema, however hay fever can most definitely exacerbate eczema symptoms.
Many people with eczema are more likely to develop hay fever and asthma due to the ‘atopic triad’ which is a term used when a person has a combination of eczema, asthma and hay fever. Some may only suffer from two of these conditions, whilst others may experience varying degrees of all three.
Research predicts that almost 80% of children suffering with atopic dermatitis, also develop asthma and/or hayfever (3).
Although it is not confirmed why this occurs, it may be linked to hereditary genetic connections, according to the National Institute of Health.
The particular gene in question is called filaggrin, which is a protein which keeps the skin hydrated. If the body does not have enough of this protein, it results in a lack of moisture in the skin leading to dry and itchy symptoms, indicating eczema.
The lack of this protein also causes a dysfunctional skin barrier which allows allergens to more easily penetrate the skin, leading to flare ups of hayfever, asthma and eczema (4).
Relieving Symptoms of the Atopic Triad
Although you can’t heal your body of these conditions, there are some measures that you can take to prevent or lessen the symptoms of them.
- Use a prescription steroid inhaler prescribed by your GP.
- Avoid triggers which are known to exacerbate symptoms eg. smoke, certain flowers, animals etc.
- Keep your environment clean; wash sheets with hot water regularly, dust surfaces and use fragrance free, natural cleaning products.
- Use over the counter antihistamines and nasal sprays to assist in alleviating symptoms.
- Avoid pollen by removing clothes and showering after being outside, keep windows of the house shut during days of high pollination (eg windy days when the environment is disturbed).
- Take lukewarm baths to soothe skin and include a hydrating product such as the Body & Bath Oil to assist with moisturising the skin’s barrier.
- Wear light, breathable fabrics on your skin to reduce irritation.
- Moisturise regularly to prevent the itch & scratch cycle eg. when the skin becomes dry, that’s when the discomfort begins and will cause itching.
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