Survive Your Spring Allergies
by Lisa DiFalco
Some people are already experiencing longer and warmer days, and allergy symptoms may be showing up earlier than usual. With the arrival of spring, individuals may be feeling the return of itchy eyes and runny noses. A significant number of people suffer with allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans manage their allergies annually. There are a number of ways to manage allergy symptoms and reduce the severity of an allergy attack.
ACAAI president and allergist Dr. Stephen Tiles said:
“People think they’re doing everything they can to battle allergies. But, many still find themselves under siege from pollen and other allergens that appear once the weather starts to warm up. What they don’t realize is that by following a few simple rules, they can make life a lot more pleasant and their allergies more bearable.”
Some people in different parts of the country may be experiencing allergy symptoms earlier than usual. People residing in the southern part of the United States may be experiencing spring allergy symptoms a few weeks in advance. Other areas of the country are set to have plant activity on schedule or lagging behind the generally expected forecast.
Healthcare professionals, nurses and educators can help allergy sufferers and colleagues with the worst of allergy symptoms, wherever they may reside. After a proper assessment of allergen triggers, it becomes easier to decide on the most practical and effective ways to reduce exposure. Learn how to limit exposure and treat spring allergies.
What Are Spring Allergies?
Know what causes a spring allergy flare-up. Frederick Little, M.D., of Boston Medical Center’s Pulmonary, Critical Care and Allergy Department, said:
“Spring allergies are caused by pollens from birch, oak and maple trees. These pollens can travel far distances through the atmosphere, affecting city dwellers just as much as people living in rural areas. Allergies can develop at any time in adulthood, and symptoms can sometimes be difficult to differentiate from the common cold.”
Symptoms of spring allergies include:
- Itchy or watery eyes;
- Sneezing; and
Those feeling as if they have a cold that will not go away may have developed an allergy. A visit to a physician may help determine whether prescribed allergy treatment medications may benefit them.
How to Address Spring Allergies in the Home
Allergens can collect and become an issue within the home. Individuals with allergies should take some time to thoroughly clean and maintain their house or apartment. Tips to reduce exposure to outdoor allergens include:
- Decreasing pet dander and fur. Many pets begin shedding more in the spring, which makes for more fur and dander around the home. Vacuuming, cleaning upholstery and washing bed linens can decrease the amount of potential allergens. Pet owners can reduce allergen exposure by not having pets sleep in the bedroom and washing bed linens more frequently during allergy season.
- Deep cleaning in the home. Move the furniture and get in the areas where dust, dirt, hair and grime often accumulate. Get under sofas and beds to thoroughly clean neglected areas. Take down and give window treatments a wash.
- Addressing humidity. People with allergens should be aware that high levels of humidity can increase mold growth in basements and bathrooms. A dehumidifier can help.
- Making indoor air cleaner. A HEPA room air cleaner with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) can improve indoor air quality. Those with central air should change air filters approximately four times a year or every three months. Select filters with MERV ratings of either 11 or 12. Allergy and asthma sufferers should avoid ionic air filters as they make dust and pollen particles cling and produce additional ozone.
- Avoiding opening the windows. Leaving windows open can allow pollen inside a home where it can settle on surfaces and in rugs. Close windows during allergy season and use air conditioners and fans to cool and circulate air.
- Taking a shower after time spent outdoors. When allergy sufferers return home, taking a thorough shower will help remove any pollen that has landed on skin and hair.
Understand which allergens trigger a flare-up. An allergist can help those with spring allergies determine the best course of treatment for their specific case.
Treatment for Spring Allergies
It is not possible for the majority of people to simply stay indoors during peak spring allergy season. Many people have to go outdoors during days with a high pollen count, whether for work, social activities or to perform routine responsibilities. Wearing a facemask during outdoor activities can reduce exposure to pollen or other allergens. As for treatment, Little said:
“Over the past 10 years, some of the longer-acting, non-sedating antihistamines have become available for sale over-the-counter such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec. These medications relieve some of the annoying symptoms of allergies such as the scratchy throat, watery eyes and running nose, but they do not change your body’s immune response to allergens. People that do not find relief through those over-the-counter medications may find additional help through anti-inflammatory medications such as nasal corticosteroids. These medications can work to decrease the allergic inflammatory response that is being triggered by allergens – helping to relieve nasal congestion and stuffiness associated with allergies.”
A primary care physician may help prescribe a medication that may provide some measure of relief from allergy symptoms. In addition, there are cases where patients have experienced allergy relief from chiropractic treatments or alternative therapies. Understanding more about spring allergy triggers and reducing exposure to allergens can decrease the frequency and severity of serious spring allergy flare-ups. Family members, community members, physicians and nurses can help themselves or those they serve better manage spring allergy symptoms and find relief during peak allergy season.