After a long, dark winter, the arrival of the spring season feels like a blessing, bringing warm weather and the awakening of nature. For many allergy sufferers, however, spring means keeping a packet of ointments close at hand and herbs close at hand.

According to the Estonian Allergy Association, 150,000 Estonians (i.e. about 10 percent) suffer from pollen allergies between March and May. And these are statistics for just one type of allergy.

In fact, allergies are very common around us, in other words, hypersensitivity to food, animals, dust, medicines and other allergens is a daily concern. However, allergies often go undiagnosed or unnoticed because exposure to the allergen is minimal and symptoms do not occur.

However, it’s worth being aware of the effects of allergies and how to manage them if you or someone close to you is experiencing different symptoms.

What is an allergy?

Allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a substance (allergen) to which hypersensitivity has developed.

The first exposure to an allergen usually results in a mild reaction, which triggers the development of antibodies, or defence cells, in the human body. A second exposure, however, leads to a more severe reaction, which can manifest itself in a variety of different symptoms, which you can read about below.

Based on their origin, allergens are divided into those originating in the external environment and those produced in the body. Exogenous allergens include, for example, house dust and dust mites, pollen, animal hair and dander, food, chemical substances or medicines. Bacteria, viruses and fungi can also be external allergens. They enter the body through the respiratory and digestive organs, the skin or the mucous membranes. 


The most common manifestations of allergy are respiratory symptoms, which can include a runny nose, sneezing and coughing. All of this may also be accompanied by, for example, tearing. On the skin, the allergy manifests itself as redness, itching and possible rashes. If it is a food allergy, it can also cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhoea. 

Allergies can also cause asthma, which is described by wheezing and shortness of breath on exposure to the allergen.

Although allergy symptoms can also be confused with a cold, it is the itching of the eyes and the unusual rash that are more likely to indicate an allergic reaction and a doctor should be consulted.

In the case of allergies, symptoms may not resolve quickly, and difficult breathing or itching may persist for days after allergen exposure in some cases.

Diagnosing an allergy

A runny nose or stuffy nose can be caused by a number of things, but when diagnosing allergies it is important to understand when and with what the symptoms occur. To do this, the person or those close to them need to notice these details. In addition, there should be an overview of the parents’ past allergies, as hereditary transmission of allergies is also possible. Keeping a diary can also be helpful in identifying allergies.

If prolonged observation and a diary do not give clear answers, a skin test with allergens is used to diagnose allergies. For this purpose, the allergist either has standard allergens or the patient brings in a material (e.g. a chemical substance) with which to perform the skin test. 

According to information from the University of Tartu (UT) Hospital, allergies caused by external allergens are usually based on a rapid type of reaction, and so skin tests can give a response in 15-20 minutes. Unfortunately, not all cases of allergy can be traced back to the cause, as the mechanisms that lead to the development of the disease can be very diverse and induced by the interaction of external and internal factors.

Ravi, ennetus ja soovitused

As the causes and manifestations of allergies vary widely, it may not be possible to identify the allergen. However, the best way to treat and prevent allergies is to know as much as possible about the nature of your allergy and the possible risks. All this is to avoid allergens in your daily life and to work with your allergist to identify the best treatment plan. 

According to information from the UT Hospital, one of the most effective ways to treat and prevent allergies is to avoid contact with the allergen causing the disease. This is only possible with some allergens, such as pets, chemicals and medicines. Unfortunately, airborne allergens are much more difficult, and people with pollen or dust mite allergies always have a higher chance of being exposed to an allergen. 

The other option is to treat the allergy with medication prescribed by the patient’s doctor. There are different types of medication: inhalers, inhalable solutions or powders, nasal sprays, eye drops, skin patches and injectables. The use of drugs topically in the affected organs (bronchial, nasal, eye) is effective and practically without side effects, as very small doses of the drug are used.

However, care must be taken here. For example, many inhaled (antihistamine) allergy medicines have a sleep-inducing side effect, which should be taken into account if you plan to get behind the wheel later, for example, or engage in activities that require concentration.

How to reduce or avoid allergen exposure

The UT Hospital’s recommendations for people with allergies to reduce or avoid allergen exposure include the following


  • don’t smoke;
  • avoid dusty and smoky environments and strong odours and chemicals;
  • don’t take a pet animal or bird into your flat;
  • avoid visits to homes with animals and birds;
  • monitor aerobiological station reports on the presence of pollen in the air;
  • don’t go to the meadow or the forest during the allergy season;
  • don’t take part in the haymaking and don’t sleep on the grass;
  • mow grasses (lawns) and weeds (couch grass, moth, hollyhock) around the house before they bloom;
  • do not bring in a vase of twigs (alder, hazel, birch, willow) or strong-smelling flowers;
  • if possible, spend time by the sea or lake in summer, where there is less pollen;
  • ventilate the room in the early morning when there is less pollen in the air;
  • do not dry the allergenic dust during the outdoor washing period.


  • try to keep relative humidity below 45% in a well-ventilated room;
  • ventilate rooms often, especially bedrooms;
  • don’t pile up large rugs or dust-collecting furniture in the bedroom. It’s better if they’re not there;
  • use washable dense mattress covers;
  • change bed linen at least every 2 weeks and wash in water above 60°;
  • leave the bed unmade for a day to remove body moisture from the bed;
  • use mattresses and pillows filled with cotton wool

Chemical substances

  • do not wear synthetic laundry;
  • wash your laundry with soap only;
  • do not use allergy-causing medicines, cosmetics.


  • do not use allergenic foods and flavourings.


  • don’t let a bee or wasp sting you;
  • don’t go alone into the woods or meadows;
  • always carry medicine with you in case of a possible sting.

The course of an allergy may not be easy and can be life-threatening if left unchecked. So keep an eye on your health, and if you notice the effects of allergens, consult an allergist to identify the best ways to keep it under control.

If you feel that you are allergic to some foods or your body is not able to cope with certain foods, it is also worth contacting a specialist. You can find food intolerance tests and nutrition counsellors all over Estonia on Stebby. Find out more HERE

The article has been prepared using research from University of Tartu Clinic.

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