It’s that time of year again that allergy sufferers dread: allergy season. Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies or hay fever, so if you take the proper steps to reduce your exposure, you can stay comfortable and still enjoy the outdoors with your family this spring.
Seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis) are caused by an overactive immune system. Your body mistakes harmless substances (such as pollen) for bacteria and attacks it (like it attacks a germ), releasing histamine, the same chemical that is released when you are fighting a cold. Histamine causes swelling in your nasal passage, often accompanied by a running nose, coughing, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, and in some cases, asthma.
Knowing the Difference from a Cold
Telling the difference between a cold and allergies can sometimes be difficult. Colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses. Your immune system goes on attack, responding with classic symptoms such as congestion and coughing. Colds are contagious (allergies are not). Colds are usually accompanied by a fever and typically only last up to 14 days; if symptoms drag on longer, it may be an allergic reaction. Not sure if your symptoms are from the common cold or seasonal allergies? Come see us! We’ll work with you to determine the best treatment for your symptoms.
Reducing your exposure to allergic triggers is the No. 1 way to lessen the symptoms. With a few minor lifestyle changes, you can keep your symptoms under control. Below are some tips to help you stay comfortable:
- Head outside at the right time. Peak pollen production can occur in the early morning, so plan activities for alternate times of the day. Ragweed pollen counts are at their highest from mid-August until the first frost.
- Avoid using a window fan to cool rooms because they can pull pollen inside.
Keep windows closed in the car, using the air conditioner instead.
- Delegate yard work. Mowing the lawn, pulling weeds and gardening can stir up allergens.
- Stay indoors on windy and dry days. And enjoy the outdoors after a good rain when the pollen is cleared from the air.
- Shower up and change your clothes. Wash the pollen down the drain that may be stuck to your hair or clothing from being outside.
- Plant wisely. If you have the opportunity to plant trees on your property, choose species such as catalpa, dogwood, fir, redwood and crepe, which don’t aggravate allergies.
Predicting pollen is like predicting the weather; there’s a lot of variability, and you can have sudden changes. Visit Pollen.com to stay up to date on the pollen count in your area.
Even though allergy medications (antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops) are available without a prescription, it’s a good idea to consult with a doctor first to make sure you choose the right one. If your seasonal allergy symptoms become unbearable, even with over-the-counter antihistamines, stop in to eMedical for an evaluation of your symptoms.