Spring is in the air and it’s the perfect time to stop and smell the flowers. Unless, of course, you’ve got spring allergies. Then it’s time to break out the tissues.
If you’re sniffling and sneezing, you’ve got lots of company. Hay fever, which can be triggered by tree, grass or weed pollen, or airborne mold spores, affects 40 to 60 million Americans.
For most people, tree, grass or weed pollen, or airborne mold spores cause no issue. But those who suffer from seasonal allergies have an immune system that is sensitive and overreacts to those triggers. The body counters by producing certain antibodies that travel to cells and release histamine and other chemicals, causing symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy, water eyes, sneezing, and congestion.
So how to avoid a miserable spring? Here are some suggestions.
It may sound obvious, but first and foremost, you should do your best to avoid what you’re allergic to.
- The National Allergy Bureau compiles levels from certified stations across the country. Look here for your area. When pollen and mold counts are super high in your area, do your best to stay indoors.
- Keep your windows and doors shut and use air conditioning if you can, which keeps the air cool and dry.
- When traveling, keep the car windows shut as well. Have someone else mow the lawn or rake the leaves, as these chores stir up pollen and mold.
- Shampoo your hair and change clothes when you get inside.
- Get your outdoor walk in early in the morning or later at night when pollen counts are lower.
- Try a saline nasal rinse to wash pollen out of your nose at the end of the day.
Use an over-the-counter remedy.
If you’re still sniffling and sneezing despite your best efforts, you may need to up the ante. Over-the-counter antihistamines, which will block the substance that’s making your miserable, can help. While older antihistamines used to make you drowsy, newer formulas don’t have that issue. There are several different types of antihistamines and different people respond differently. If one type doesn’t help, don’t despair. Just try another.
See an allergist.
A doctor specializing in allergies can help you suss out what specific things are causing your problem. He’ll take a detailed history, perform a physical exam and probably test your for specific allergies. That’s likely a skin test, where he’ll prick your arm or back with tiny tubes that contain common allergens. If your skin reacts in any way, you’ll know what triggers your symptoms. He may also take blood to test if your body makes antibodies in response to certain allergy triggers.
Depending on what he finds, he may prescribe antihistamines, nasal steroids, which can help decrease inflammation, swelling and mucus production, or possibly even immunotherapy (allergy shots), which will change your body’s immune system to allergens.
With a little intervention you could be smelling the flowers all season long!