Finally! Spring is in the air. The trees are budding, Robins and Bluebirds are building their nests and the Daffodils and Cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom. (Just in time for the Blossoms of Hope Cherrybration days!)
As welcome as the warmth and sunshine might be, it also signifies the start of Spring allergy season. Trees including cedar, maple and elm, which are responsible for the first pollens of the allergy season, are already working overtime. According to the local pollen forecast, we’ve already reached the “red” zone, spurred in part by the recent windy weather, which distributes the particles of pollen, increasing your allergy symptoms.
Pollen allergy (hay fever or allergic rhinitis) affects about 8 percent of adults in the United States and its onset is sometimes confused with the cold virus because they share similar symptoms including nasal congestion, runny noses, sneezing and watery eyes. Seasonal allergies, however, last more than just a few days and are usually accompanied by the additional symptom of itchy eyes and nose.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it is nearly impossible to eliminate pollen completely from your life, but here are five ways to minimize your exposure to pollen:
- Keep the windows closed in the car and at home, and use air conditioning if necessary.
- Use a HEPA air filter and a high-efficiency furnace filter to reduce pollen inside the house. Be sure to change the filters frequently. (You can also use a HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner)
- Vacuum carpets, and wash the bed linens weekly.
- Shower and change your clothes after being outside. If you have pets that spend time outdoors, don’t forget to bathe them, as well, to reduce the pollen they bring into the home.
- Limit your outdoor activity to specific times. Pollen counts are highest between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and lowest right after it rains or at night so consider making your morning constitutional an evening stroll instead.
What about medications? Several over-the-counter medications are available that help manage the symptoms including nasal sprays, inhaled corticosteroids, antihistamines, eye-drops and decongestants. Consider checking with your physician before using over-the counter-medications, such as decongestants, as these can cause significant side effects including high blood pressure and heart palpitations.
If your allergies are not responding to your initial line of defense, consult a Howard County General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Medicine Allergy and Immunology expert. These physicians are able to treat moderate to severe allergies with more extensive tools including prescriptions, nasal steroids and/or a series of immunotherapy shots.