While you might enjoy the warmer weather, we certainly don’t welcome spring allergy symptoms.
It’s only the start of March, and already spring allergies are on the rise. According to
Weather.com, a few factors, including the mostly mild winter and the presence of El Niño, could mean that the 2016 spring allergy season will be bigger and badder than previous years.
However, there is a way to avoid them and knowing the sources of bothersome spring allergies, can help you reduce your exposure.
According to WebMD, the biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen — tiny grains released into the air by trees, grasses, and weeds for the purpose of fertilizing other plants. When pollen grains get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the immune system into overdrive.
The immune system releases antibodies after mistakenly seeing the pollen as foreign invaders. The antibodies then attack allergens, which releases chemicals called histamines into the blood. That is when you get a runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, coughing, dark circles under the eyes and sneezing.
What typically starts triggering people in late April or early May? — pollen from juniper, cedar, alder, elm and maple, for example — began blowing around as early as mid-February.
Here are some of the biggest spring allergy offenders:
Grasses and weeds
You will notice allergy symptoms are worse when it is windy. That is when pollens are on the move the most. Rainy days can cause some much-needed relief for allergy sufferers. Those airborne allergens can also trigger asthma, which can make breathing difficult and can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
“When visiting with an allergist, you will be asked about your medical history, your symptoms, and a physical exam.” Kendra Saal, RN, Dean of Nursing at Minnesota School of Business – Richfield, said.
Allergy specialists may do a skin test that involves pricking the surface with a small amount of the allergen, or inject a tiny sample of a diluted allergen. If you are allergic to the substance then a red bump – a hive or wheal – will appear.
“While skin tests are more sensitive, some allergist will order blood tests if you are taking certain medications, have sensitive skin or a skin condition,” Saal said.
According to WebMD, one should take note that just because you react to a particular allergen does not necessarily mean you will start sneezing and coughing when you come in contact with it.
Many allergy sufferers in the springtime can find relief with over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Make sure you talk to your doctor to help you choose the right medication.
- Antihistamines reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching by lowering the amount of histamine (the substance produced during an allergic reaction) in the body.
- Decongestants shrink the blood vessels in the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling.
- Antihistamine/decongestants combine the effects of both drugs.
- Nasal spray decongestants relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants without some of the side effects.
- Steroid nasal sprays reduce inflammation and are the preferred initial treatment. Only two, Nasacort and Flonase, are currently available over the counter. Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can help prevent hay fever by stopping the release of histamine before it can trigger allergy symptoms.
- Eye drops relieve itchy, watery eyes. Ketotifen is available over-the-counter.
Some allergy sufferers turn to natural therapies for relief, although the research is mixed on their effectiveness:
- The herb butterbur, which comes from a European shrub, shows potential for relieving seasonal allergy symptoms. Some studies have shown butterbur — specifically, a butterbur extract called Ze 339 — to be as effective in reducing allergy symptoms as the antihistamines Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec.
- Quercetin. This flavonoid, which is found naturally in onions, apples, and black tea, has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown in research to block the release of histamines.
- Stinging nettle. The roots and leaves of the stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica) have been used to treat everything from joint pain to prostate problems. Although some people use freeze-dried stinging nettle leaves to treat allergy symptoms, there isn’t much research to show that it works.
- Nasal irrigation. Nasal irrigation with a combination of warm water, about a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda may help clear out mucus and open sinus passages. You can administer the solution through a squeeze bottle or a neti pot — a device that looks like a small teapot. Use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. It’s also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry.
- Try to stay indoors whenever the pollen count is very high (pollen counts usually peak in the mornings).
- Keep your doors and windows closed whenever possible during the spring months to keep allergens out. An air purifier may also help.
- Clean the air filters in your home often. During high allergy times, it is recommended to change air filters once a month. Also, clean bookshelves, vents, and other places where pollen can collect.
- Wash your hair after going outside, because pollen can collect there.
- Vacuum twice a week. Wear a mask, because vacuuming can kick up pollen, mold, and dust that get trapped in your carpet.
“Being aware of the seasonal allergy triggers and effective allergy treatment, you will still be able to enjoy the beautiful Minnesota spring,” Saal said.
To learn more about our nursing programs or school of nursing, call 1-877-655-7676 to reserve a seat in a free nursing seminar.