For those of you who suffer from allergies or those who care about people with them (or if you have a morbid curiosity about microscopic creatures that defecate under your bed) – Episode Twelve of The Healthy Matters Podcast is for you.

Why do allergies exist? They not only keep my guest and colleague Dr. John Sweet busy in our allergy clinic, but they are also indicative of an overactive, “very healthy, well-nourished immune system,” and one that’s “bored” and “looking for something to do.”

This is how Dr. Sweet explains this to his patients:

“Your friends without allergies are exposed to the exact same things you are. Their body sees it and ignores it. They see tree pollen; they see grass pollen. They see pet dander. And nothing happens to them. But you, my patient, unfortunately your immune system sees it as a threat and your immune system is trying to get rid of it. So think of that sneeze, that postnasal drip, that drainage as a way of your body trying to get it out instead of ignoring it. And that leads to a lot of symptoms that can be pretty uncomfortable.”

You’ve often heard that in order to conquer your enemy, you have to know your enemy – and immune systems have (albeit mistakenly) declared war on allergens, so in this episode we answer itching questions like what is the biggest allergy culprit? (Does it have four legs and a tail?) What’s the deal with pollen? And of course, “how many eggs do dust mites lay each month?”

I also asked Dr. Sweet if he has any recommendations for people when they know they’ll experience their inevitable, annual allergy symptoms.

“If you have allergies and you know that spring is your season, the best thing is to get ahead of it. All the allergy medications you can get over the counter best work preventively, but they don’t work as well if you already have the symptoms. If you know your pollen season is coming, start your antihistamine and your steroid nasal spray a week or two before the onset of your symptoms. You’ll end up having fewer symptoms or less severe symptoms if you do.”

Seasonal allergies, snow mold, pet dander, dead skin, HEPA filters and giant pollen collectors are also discussed in this episode.

“If you’re allergic to pollen, you need to take a shower before you go to bed at night,” continues Dr. Sweet. “Because your hair acts like a giant pollen collector. Pollen is sticky. Get it off you before you go to sleep at night. If you know you have outdoor allergens, don’t bring it in the house.” He also suggests wearing a hat to keep that pollen off your head.

 The dust hit the fan when we talked about my bedroom, but you’ll have to listen to Episode Twelve to hear more about that – as well as Dr. Sweet dispelling myths about breed-specific pet allergies, the benefits of Bamba snacks, and the proper use of neti pots.