It seems as though our unseasonably warm winter has brought early spring blooms and pollen. [You didn’t think we could sail through an unseasonably warm winter without a catch now, did you?!]
More than 40 million Americans (my three children and myself included) have already begun wiping our watery eyes and blowing our sneezy noses because allergy season hit us a little earlier this year.
According to experts, a warm winter and a warm spring affects a plant’s timing for pollen production: the warmer the weather, the earlier the pollinating season. Studies of recent years have shown milder winters nationwide, which meant tree pollen and spring allergies have been arriving earlier than usual. Many allergy and immunology experts think that allergies in general are increasing throughout the westernized world. They believe that global warming and CO2 levels in the air, pollen seasons are lengthened and more severe.
Despite the earlier allergy season that is now upon us, there are things we allergy sufferers can to do make our spring season happier and our allergy season tolerable.
Stock up. If you know you suffer from spring allergies, you may want to arm yourself with the antihistamine or nasal spray that works best for you. Common over-the-counter allergy pills are Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin. Zyrtec may make you drowsy, so use only at bedtime. Allegra and Claritin are not sedating, and can be used throughout the day. Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec are recommended over Benadryl as an antihistamine because they seem to be more effective, with fewer side effects.
If an over-the counter antihistamine is not enough, try adding a nasal spray like Rhinocort, Nasacort, or Flonase, all of which provide great relief throughout the day. The nasal sprays help itchy, watery eyes, headaches, and sinus congestion. My children and I cannot get through the spring season without our Nasacort!
Because the early days of spring allergy season can be very difficult for people with asthma, it may be time to meet with your doctor and begin using any of the prescribed doctor-recommended drugs and sprays before the pollen season gets into full swing and your allergy symptoms begin.
If you’re not someone who typically has seasonal allergies but seem to have come down with itchy eyes, clogged ears and a runny nose this year, it may be worth paying a visit to your primary care physician or allergist.
Longtime allergy sufferers who do not experience relief from over-the-counter drugs may want to consider allergy shots or immunotherapy pills, both work the same way and seem to be equally as effective. The pill, however, only works on grass and ragweed pollen allergies.
Schedule your day. Pollen levels are highest in the morning, so if you like to run or exercise outdoors, it may be best to plan that activity for the early evening. Educate yourself about pollen counts in your area by looking online or watching your local weather forecast. Try not to spend a lot of time outside when pollen counts are at a high. Avoid outside exercise on high pollen count days. If you must spend time outdoors, choose the afternoon if possible. During the warmer months, pollen counts tend to be highest between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Pollen counts tend to be the lowest right after heavy rains.Avoiding pollens completely is very hard to do because tree pollen can be blown as far as fifty miles away.
Keep pollen outdoors as much as you can. Before heading indoors, remove all outer clothing such as jackets, hats and shoes at the door, so you don’t track pollen into your living room and bedroom. People with severe pollen allergies may want to consider showering before getting into bed to remove pollen. Avoid hanging garments outside to air dry.
Wash your hands! Washing your hands often will keep pollen and germs at bay. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, in case your hands have pollen residue on them.
If possible, stay inside. Avoid the outdoor pollen by staying inside as much as you can, or at least when the pollen count is at its peak for the day.
If you are lucky enough to only have a tree pollen allergy, your symptoms should start to subside by June. However, June is when grass pollen allergies usually begin, then comes mold and spores in July. The end of summer mostly brings ragweed allergies.
Remember, allergies left untreated can lead to more serious health issues, like allergic rhinitis, asthma, or chronic sinus infections. Take care of your allergies and your health!