Aaacho! Spring Allergies
As you breathe a sigh of relief that winter is over and warmer weather is upon us, that sigh may quickly be followed by a sneeze. It is estimated that 35 million Americans suffer each year from allergies in the springtime, triggered mostly by the release of pollen into the air. While there is no cure to seasonal allergies, there are ways to combat them and at least be more comfortable during this period. And remember: seasonal allergies are just that – seasonal. However, if you find yourself constantly battling a runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing, then it might be time to see an allergist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist for testing of a specific allergy, such as dust or pet dander.
To combat seasonal allergies, it is first important to know what causes them. Each spring, trees, grasses, and weeds release small grains into the air for the purpose of fertilizing – or pollenating – other plants. (So while you might enjoy the sight of beautiful blooming gardens in the spring and summer, recognize those blooms come at a cost!) If someone with an allergy to pollen breathes in these grains, then the body responds as it would when any kind of infection invades the body: it fights back. As your body employs antibodies to fight this new foreign substance in your airways, the antibodies release histamines, a chemical that causes the classic symptoms of allergy sufferers: a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes, in addition to a host of other symptoms.
So, how do you fight back? For one, realize that the weather can play a role in the pollen count in a particular area. For example, the pollen count is usually highest on windy days, when pollen is carried through the air on the breeze. Rainy days, however, typically produce a lower pollen count because the water washes the allergens away. If possible, plan how long you are outdoors for days that are less windy, or try to run errands when it is raining. April showers do bring May flowers – and allergy relief!
For most people, spring allergies are just a rite of the season and do not affect their daily lives. However, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help with your symptoms. These range from antihistamines and decongestants, to nasal spray and eye drops. Be mindful, though, that some antihistamines can make you sleepy, so you need to practice caution when taking them during the day. There are some natural alternatives as well, in the form of herbal supplements that some people find effective. It is important to talk to you doctor before trying herbal remedies, though, because they may react with the medications you are already taking. If your symptoms are severe, however, and the OTC remedies you have tried are not helping, you may want to talk to your doctor about prescription options.
You might also find it beneficial to be tested by an allergist to find out what specifically in the spring air you are allergic to, whether it is mold, tree pollen, or a type of weed. That way, you can plan to stay indoors when that particular pollen count is highest. (Pollen counts are typically available on weather websites during the spring months.) Also remember to keep your windows closed during the spring months to avoid bringing pollen inside your home.
If your sinus problems lead to headaches and constant congestion, you may also want to check in with an ear, nose, and throat specialist, as you may have a condition known as chronic sinusitis, or sinus infection. Both surgical and non-surgical treatments are available for sinusitis. Talking to a specialist is the best way to figure out your options.
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