Sometimes students develop allergies while away at college. They may have moved to a different part of the country or are experiencing a new climate. Help your student deal with the annoyance of allergens with the following information:

What are allergies?

Allergies are abnormal reactions to ordinarily harmless substances. These substances, called allergens, may be inhaled, swallowed, or come into contact with the skin. Allergic reactions can include one or more symptoms.

Which allergens are generally the most problematic?

  • Pollens
  • Mold spores
  • House dust mites
  • Animal danders
  • Foods
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Plants
  • Insect spores
  • Latex rubber
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Medications and environmental conditionals (such as cold temperatures)

What kinds of allergic diseases are there?

While individuals can be affected by a variety of allergic diseases, the most common is allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is a general term used to apply to anyone who has allergy-based symptoms. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (commonly referred to as hay fever) is caused by allergies to pollen, grasses, weeds, or mold spores. Year-round allergicrhinitis is caused by house dust, animal dander, mold, and some foods.

What are the signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis?

  • Sneezing, often accompanied by a runny or clogged nose
  • Coughing and postnasal drip
  • Itching eyes, nose, and throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Dark circles under the eyes

How can allergies be treated?

If your student is really uncomfortable, a trip to Health Services or a local allergist might be helpful. Professionals can run tests to determine the allergen culprits, offer strategies for easing discomfort, and monitor severity levels. When avoidance or control of an allergen is not possible, medications may be prescribed for seasonal or perennial use. Once students know what causes their allergies, they can utilize the following avoidance strategies:

  • If possible, stay indoors in the morning (when the pollen count is at its highest) and on windy days.
  • Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollination seasons.
  • Use an air conditioner in their room and car.
  • Rid their room of indoor plants and other sources of mildew.
  • Change feather pillows, woolen blankets, and clothing to cotton or synthetic materials.
  • Enclose mattress, box springs, and pillows in plastic barrier cloth.
  • Wash sheets, mattress pad, and blankets weekly in hot water.
  • Use a dehumidifier.
  • Use an air filter.

Is it allergies or a cold?

Sometimes it can be tough to tell the difference between allergies and a cold or flu. Common cold symptoms include a scratchy sore throat, sneezing, fatigue, nasal drainage, body aches, and a dry or productive cough. Colds persisting longer than two weeks or experiencing symptoms such as a sudden fever, prominent headache or earache, extreme fatigue, and severe aches and pains could indicate an infection of the respiratory system caused by the flu. If your student sounds like he might be coming down with a cold or flu, a trip to Health Services is in order. While a cold or flu might seem like no big deal, it can be on a college campus. Your student's defenses may be down due to stress and fatigue, making it more challenging to beat the bug, plus it's easier to infect others when living in such close quarters.

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