Seasonal Allergy and Bronchitis: What Is the Connection?

Updated on April 4, 2019
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John was a Navy hospital corpsman. He worked the general sick bay, managed a carrier O.R., and treated heat rash, eczema, and dyshidrosis.

Pollen May Be the Guilty Party

Seasonal bronchitis from outdoor pollen can also be referred to as pollen bronchitis.
Seasonal bronchitis from outdoor pollen can also be referred to as pollen bronchitis. | Source

Allergies at My Age?

My suspicion is that many seniors experience what I have experienced. You wake up one morning with your sinuses clogged and feeling like you are coming down with a cold. You write it off as having come in contact with coughing, sneezing people at a supermarket or you blame it on your grandchildren who seem to have always caught something at school.

For years this was what passed through my mind in the fall. I knew that if it persisted for a couple weeks I would no doubt have bronchitis. Then there would be the visit to the primary care physician who would prescribe an antibiotic. It seemed that at 65 years of age my number had come up. Yearly upper respiratory infections were to be my lot in life hence forth.

In laymen's terms, acute bronchitis is referred to as a chest cold.

Symptoms

  • coughing up mucus
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest discomfort

Not So Quick

Upon one visit to the doctor's office the physician asked if I was getting these severe chest problems at the same time each year. I told her that it was always in the fall. That seemed to be all she needed to hear.

She diagnosed me as having seasonal allergies. With the fall rains in Arizona and the blossoming of all the desert plants, something was causing me inflammation. She told me that I should take an antihistamine as soon as I noticed inflammation in my throat or chest. Graciously giving me 3 sample antihistamines, she said to try them and see what worked best.

According to her, it was not uncommon for a person to experience allergies later in life. I had been an outdoors person all my life and never had a problem. It had been a point of pride not to have had itchy, water eyes, a rough throat, or a burning chest as had so many of my friends. But age can apparently change all of that.


English: Figure A shows the location of the lungs and bronchial tubes in the body. Figure B is an enlarged, detailed view of a normal bronchial tube. Figure C is an enlarged, detailed view of a bronchial tube with bronchitis. The tube is inflamed and
English: Figure A shows the location of the lungs and bronchial tubes in the body. Figure B is an enlarged, detailed view of a normal bronchial tube. Figure C is an enlarged, detailed view of a bronchial tube with bronchitis. The tube is inflamed and | Source

You Aren't the Only One

More than 50 million people experience signs of allergies each year. I was shocked to hear I had allergies, but at the same time, it's nice to have a cause and a direction for remedying the problem, especially since I love to be outside. Treatment and prevention are the way to deal with this muddle.

What To Do

Yes, you were spared the same fate as all those folks who are allergic to pets, but there is some kind of allergen in the air in the fall that is distressing you. I still don't know what allergy I have, but I don't need to. These are the steps to dealing with it.

  1. Avoid the allergens (if symptoms occur outside)
  2. Take allergy medication
  3. Immunotherapy can help (allergy shots)

Pesky Allergens

Allergens cause the production of substances known as histamines. It is histamine that causes itching, swelling, cough, and inflammation that you experience with an anaphylactic reaction, or allergy. Nobody knows for sure the ins and outs of allergy, but chemicals called antihistamines block the histamine from causing us so much trouble. As the 6th most frequent cause of illness in the United States it costs us a total $18 billion dollars per year.

Treatment

The doc gave me samples of three different antihistamines. One of them worked great, Zyrtec. You should never take a medication without checking with your doctor as medications can interact with others, and as old folks we often take multiple medicines. At this point let me suggest a medication that will save you a lot of money. It is the generic form of Zyrtec. But, of course, run this by your doctor first.

Shopping at Walmart I discovered Major All Day Allergy 24Hr Tab Cetirizine Hcl-10 Mg White 14 Tablets for only 88 cents. If you have purchased Zyrtec, you know this is a deal.

Citirizine HCL - generic Zyrtec, at time of publication, $0.88 for a 14 count box at Walmart
Citirizine HCL - generic Zyrtec, at time of publication, $0.88 for a 14 count box at Walmart | Source

Adult Onset Allergy

At nearly 70, what turned out to be adult allergy is a mystery. However at my age, I have had enough friends pass away or be debilitated from a number of illnesses we all dread to hear about, so I am more than happy to take one pill a day so I can enjoy the outdoors.

I know from experience that a burny chest, cough or nasal drip can severely impact my sleep. The symptoms of nasal congestion, sinus headache, and sore nose can make sleeping difficult. Losing sleep when you acquire a certain age is not a fun thing to deal with.

A nice thing about cetirizine HCL is it doesn't cause drowsiness while you need to be alert, a side effect of other antihistamines. It is also longer acting than benadryl, another favorite over-the-counter medicine that is shorter acting and can cause drowsiness.

Natural Treatment

Eventual Possible Infection

Although infection is not the reason or cause of bronchitis, it is seen to aid in sustaining the bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is one of the most common diseases. About 5% of adults are affected.

An acute case of bronchitis can last from a couple weeks to at most a couple months. If it lasts longer, you may have chronic bronchitis. This is a more serious condition and you should see the doctor.

While each person may have differences in how drugs affect them, I am including my experience with antibiotics in the treatment of bronchitis. Certainly it is most important to speak to a physician about the use of antibiotics, but mentioning my observation may help you save a little time in successfully treating bronchitis. It is worth a note. So, don't wait more than 2 weeks to see a doctor if it appears to be seasonal allergy related. It may be pollen that is inflaming your bronchial tubes.

Erythromycin, Doxycycline, and Azithromycin are the drugs I have been prescribed. Of the three, Azithromycin worked the best. The bronchitis was always gone after the prescribed period of treatment. It comes in a prepackaged daily dose called a Z pack.

Conclusion

Perhaps the most important element to successfully curing yourself of pollen bronchitis is to get ample rest. Get away from the outside air, and try over the counter antihistamines. Cough syrup and mucus tablets can help to loosen phlegm. I have found that cough drops can sooth your throat, which I find improves rest. Beyond two weeks with a "chest cold" make sure you see a practitioner.

Sources

aafa (1995 to 2019). Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergy Facts and FIgures. Retrieved March 26, 2018 from, https://www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/

Donovan, John (1995 - 2019). Adult-Onset Allergies. Retrieved March 24, 2019 from, https://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/adult-onset-allergies#2

WebMD staff (2005-2019). Do I Need Antihistamines for Allergies? Retrieved March 23, 2019 from, https://www.webmd.com/allergies/antihistamines-for-allergies

No author stated, Wikipedia (30 March 2019). Bronchitis. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronchitis

WebMD staff (2005 - 2019). Asthmatic Bronchitis. Retrieved March 22, 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/asthma/asthmatic-bronchitis-symptoms-treatment#1

Fisher, Keith MD (4 April 2018). How Long Do Symptoms Of Bronchitis Last? Retrieved March 29, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-bronchitis-last

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 John R Wilsdon

    Comments

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      • john000 profile imageAUTHOR

        John R Wilsdon 

        7 months ago from Superior, Arizona

        Thanks, Pamela for your positive comments on the pollen bronchitis hub. We both know how disappointing it can be when it strikes. Sunny Florida and Sunny Arizona have plenty of blossoms! After our winter rains and now the warm up we have gorgeous flowers everywhere - and stuffy noses! Be well.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        7 months ago from Sunny Florida

        When the pollen count is high in the spring I have all the symptoms you listed, and I often end up with bronchitis as well. You did a great job of listed all the symptoms and the probable treatments for this problem.

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