Spring into Action: Coping with Spring Allergies
Did you know that allergies can surface at any point in a person's lifetime, even if you've never dealt with them before? If you are already being treated for other chronic conditions, seasonal allergies (also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever) can be debilitating. Luckily, there are ways to keep it at bay.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) says allergic rhinitis occurs when your immune system identifies an allergen as an intruder and responds to it by releasing histamines. Those histamines cause the unpleasant symptoms, such as sneezing, wheezing and itchy eyes. While allergic rhinitis can be triggered by mold, pet dander and dust mite droppings, pollen is the most common allergen for seasonal allergy sufferers.
"Pollen typically starts affecting allergy sufferers in the spring and summer," said Dennis E. Rademaker, DO, a Franciscan Physician Network allergist in Munster, Indiana. "There are different types of pollen, and it can affect each person differently, depending on the type of tree or grass from which it came."
Managing Your Allergies
There are several ways to manage seasonal allergies, including:
- Check the pollen count before spending time outdoors. AccuWeather.com allows you to enter your Zip code and check the pollen count for your area.
- Use high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters at home. HEPA filters are available for use in furnaces, air conditioners and vacuum cleaners.
- Delegate garden and lawn work, or avoid it in the early morning. The pollen count is at its highest early in the day.
- Avoid bringing pollen into your home. Remove your shoes before going inside; wash your face and change clothes after working outdoors; keep doors and windows closed.
- Brush and bathe your pets regularly. Before your pets come back indoors, take a moment to brush off their fur, and bathe them on a weekly basis.
- Try over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication. Ask your doctor if OTC antihistamines like Claritin®or Zyrtec® would be OK to try, or whether you should consider oral or nasal decongestants.
- Visit your doctor for an allergy test. Blood tests or skin testing can help your doctor identify your specific allergen and pinpoint a successful treatment.
- Undergo immunotherapy (allergy shots). This is a long-term treatment that can last for three to five years. Immunotherapy can retrain your immune system to tolerate a specific allergen.