Welcome Spring Sneeze-Free
Strategies to shoo seasonal allergies
Spring is now in full swing, which means it’s high season for hay
fever along with a smorgasbord of other airborne allergens. For the some
35-million Americans who suffer from pollen allergies, this is hardly
a newsflash, as they annually contend with the sneezing, sniffling, coughing,
and itchy/watery eyes that accompany this season of renewal.
Pollen and your Immune System
Much of the blame for spring being an unwanted allergy-fest can be traced
directly to pollen that’s emitted by trees, grass, and weeds. The
goal is to fertilize other plants, but – along the way – grains
of pollen often take a detour and instead take up residence in unsuspecting humans.
For those who are allergic to pollen, these tiny grains trigger an immune-system
alarm. Sensing a threat, the immune system swings into action, sending
antibodies on a mission to attack the pollen invaders. The ensuing battle
results in the release of histamines – a bodily chemical that causes
allergy sufferers to have itchy eyes, runny noses, and stubborn coughs.
Spring’s pollen count varies by day and geographic area; as the
pollen count soars, so too do allergy sufferers’ symptoms.
Since hibernation isn’t an option, spring allergies can’t be
avoided entirely. There are, however, steps you can take to keep the seasonal
suffering to a minimum.
Monitor the pollen count – The amount of pollen in the air is actually measured, and this
is important information for allergy suffers. Local weather reports often
provide the daily pollen count, or you can visit the American Academy
of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology’s National Allergy bureau website –
http://www.aaaai.org/global/nab-pollen-counts – to find out the pollen levels in your area.
When the pollen count is very high – it generally peaks in the morning
– stay indoors as much as possible. If you have to head outside,
wear glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen away from your eyes. If gardening
or mowing the lawn is a must, allergists recommend wearing gloves and
a pollen mask (available at drug stores). Then shower to rinse off pollen
and wash the clothes you wore outside. And, during pollen season, don’t
hang clothes outdoors to dry. On high-pollen days, also keep windows and
Preempt symptoms – When high pollen counts are projected, start taking allergy medications
before the onset of symptoms. Nonprescription medications include:
- Antihistamines – Designed to decrease sneezing, runny nose, and itchy/watery
eyes. Among the popular brands are Alavert, Allegra Allergy, Claritin,
and Zyrtec Allergy.
- Decongestants – Relief from nasal stuffiness is their goal. Oral
formulations include Sudafed and Afrinol. There also are decongestant
nasal sprays, such as Afrin and Neo-Synephrine.
- Combination meds – There additionally are medications that combine
an antihistamine with a decongestant. Brands in this category include
Claritin-D and Allegra-D.
See a specialist – If over-the-counter medications aren’t effective, schedule
an appointment with an allergist. Prescription oral medications –
as well as prescription nasal sprays – are available to keep seasonal
allergies in check. Allergy shots, which involve receiving regular injections
containing small amounts of the allergen causing symptoms, are another
option. The goal being for your body to become tolerant of the allergen.
Rather than getting shots, an alternative is ingesting the allergen –
usually daily – in a pill that dissolves under your tongue.
Embrace these strategies, and spring can be a sneeze-free season.