Coping with Spring Allergies
Be proactive with allergy prevention
Spring has returned with all of its greenery and glory! Unfortunately, not everyone looks forward to this season. Springtime can be challenging for people who suffer from allergies. Tree pollen is the biggest culprit for triggering allergy symptoms in early spring. In Louisiana, we are no strangers to pollen. Remember last year when your vehicle was covered in greenish-yellowish dust? Well, that was pollen.
Trees, grasses and weeds release pollen. The wind carries pollen away from its source to fertilize other plants. When pollen lands in your eyes or nose or on your skin, it can cause a reaction. The allergen is absorbed and presented to the immune system. Mast cells carry histamine and other mediators, which are released when allergens are presented. The result is usually a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, coughing and other symptoms.
What are the best ways to deal with seasonal allergies? First, stay indoors on days when the pollen count is high. Local weather forecasts often include the daily pollen count. Consider keeping your doors and windows closed during the spring to keep out pollen. Also, make sure you clean and vacuum often to remove pollen, pet dander, dust and dust mites from household surfaces. If you spend any time outdoors, change your clothes and/or wash your hair as soon as possible to remove the pollen.
Allergies can produce symptoms similar to the common cold, but there are some differences between cold and allergy symptoms. A cold will last between three to seven days, while allergies will linger for as long as you are exposed to the allergens. A cold may cause a low-grade fever, but allergies do not cause a fever. Both allergies and a cold can cause a runny nose. However, the discharge from a cold is thick and yellowish, while the discharge from an allergy issue is thin and watery.
Depending on the severity of your reaction to pollen or other allergens, you may want to consider over-the-counter allergy medications. Antihistamines (like Benadryl, Claritin or Zyrtec) reduce sneezing, runny nose and itching. Be careful when taking certain antihistamines because they can cause drowsiness and other side effects. Eye drops can also help with itchy, watery eyes. A decongestant can help relieve congestion, and a nasal spray can reduce swelling of the nasal passages. If you prefer a natural remedy, you could try nasal irrigation. A combination of warm water, iodinefree salt and baking soda (or saline solution) is used for flushing out allergens and mucus to open up your sinus passages.
If over-the-counter medications do not help, consider seeing an allergist for further testing. If your allergies are left untreated, they can cause serious complications, such as acute or chronic sinusitis. Acute and chronic sinusitis have similar symptoms, including facial pain or pressure, fatigue and headaches. Some of the symptoms can last for weeks. Allergists can perform skin or blood testing that diagnoses the cause of the problem. In addition, they can prescribe allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots), which reduces your sensitivity to your triggers and can be the only curative treatment for allergies over the long term.
The best advice to prepare for allergy season is to start your medications early. Do not wait until the symptoms hit you. Begin your spring cleaning earlier than usual. Track pollen levels so you can plan tasks accordingly. Starting outdoor activities later in the day is smart since pollen levels are usually the highest in the morning. Hot, dry days will have more pollen than wet, cold days. Be proactive with your allergy prevention so you don’t miss out on the beauty of spring!
To schedule an appointment with an allergy specialist at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Asthma, Allergy, and ENT Center, call 318-221-3584.