By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Allergy season is upon us again, with all the accompanying misery of red eyes, runny noses and coughs. Allergies are bothersome enough on their own but many people are not aware that they can lead to a condition even more serious --- pneumonia.
I first became aware of the connection years ago when a child's friend began coughing on and off from allergies. She was given medicine for the cough and that worked for a while. But the cough would return. The mother was not overly concerned since the doctors' assured her that the cough was not serious. Still, it did last for weeks.
Suddenly, three weeks in to this chronic, worrying cough, the child came down with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized.
The pneumonia had been caused by the introduction of the phlegm into first the upper respiratory tract and then into the lungs.
That was how I came to understand that pneumonia can in fact be caused by something, almost anything that first creates a chronic cough and irritation of your respiratory tract.
Pneumonia is an infection that creates inflammation in your lungs. Pneumonia can be "caused" by allergies, dust, even pollution. By "caused", we mean that these irritants can make your air passages inflamed, making it easier for the virus, bacteria or fungus to enter the lungs and cause pneumonia. In this way, allergies, dust, internal contaminants, smoke and pollution "enable" pneumonia.
Pneumonia Is One of the World's Most Efficient Killers
Doctors are becoming alarmed that the connection between pneumonia and allergies is not better known. They are trying to get the word out. Dr. Chris Dreiling, a pediatrician in Chattanooga, Tennesee, warns parents to not let allergies go untreated, for they can quickly lead to pneumonia. The risk is perhaps higher among children because they so often get colds and parents may not become alarmed soon enough that a seemingly seasonal cough has become serious.
Allergies can also weaken your immune system, making you easier prey for pneumonia.
Pneumonia is a savage killer. It is the leading cause of death worldwide for children under 5 years of age, according to the American Thoracic Society.
Pneumonia is the most common reason adults are hospitalized in the United States, other than for childbirth.
Once they have pneumonia, adults are more likely to die from it than any of the other Top 10 reasons for hospitalization.
What Should You Do In Allergy Season to Protect Against Pneumonia
1. Treat Allergies with Anti-histamines
Stave off coughs that can lead to pneumonia by treating allergies early. Anti-histamines are available over teh counter of course.
2. Shower Before Bedtime
Pollen clings to hair and clothes. Simply showering before bedtime can prevent being irritated by pollen during the night. This can cut down on coughing.
3. Use a Saline Solution to Clear Your Sinuses
Wash out your sinuses with a saline solution. Again, simply knocking down the level of pollen that has made its way into your system that, if left there, can irritate your bronchial passages.
4. Consider a Thyme Facial
Thyme is a powerful anti-allergen. Consider adding thyme to a humidifier or a facial machine to gently heal inflamed bronchial passages and promote the ability of your lungs to clear themselves.
5. Consider Boosting Your Vitamin E Levels
Vitamin E helps to protect your lungs from pneumonia, scientists have discovered. But the effect of Vitamin E on your pneumonia risk depends on your lifestyle, a 2016 study from University of Helsinki has found.
Men who do not smoke and who exercise in their spare time found that taking Vitamin E reduced their risk for pneumonia by 69%.
On the other hand, men who smoked and who took Vitamin E made their pneumonia risk worse. For these men, taking Vitamin E increased their risk fro pneumonia by 68%.
The opposite effects mean that, as always, you should talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
This is true even if you decide to get your Vitamin E naturally , by eating foods rich in Vitamin E such as almonds.