Spring is Here and So is Allergy Season
Tips for reducing symptoms and coping with all those 'achoos'
There may still be a little slush and snow on the ground, but if you look closely, you can spot buds on the trees and shrubs and hints of green popping through the flower beds.
Spring is here, but with it comes seasonal allergies, which are affected by pollen from flowers and trees, grass, and a host of other factors right outside our windows.
Dr. Patrick Perin, an allergy specialist with an office on Cedar Lane in Teaneck, said symptoms of seasonal allergies include sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip and coughing. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms – and sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between an allergic reaction and a simple cold. An allergist can provide tests to determine the cause of one’s symptoms.
A seasonal allergy is a reaction to a trigger that is present only specific times of the year, such a spring or fall. Perennial allergies refer to reactions from triggers that are present all year round, such as pet dander, dust mites, and household mold.
Pollen is the biggest culprit for spring allergies, said Dr. Perin. So, what exactly happens?
Pollens are tiny, egg-shaped granular particles that are released by plants and weeds for reproductive purposes. Pollens that are carried by wind are usually the main cause of allergies, affecting a person’s eyes or respiratory system.
However, most pollens that are carried by insects, like bees, do not generally cause seasonal allergies because that pollen is not present in the air.
SOME SEASONAL ALLERGY TRIGGERS
Trees can begin to produce pollen from late winter to early spring. Among those that are known to cause allergies include oak, olive, elm, birch, ash, hickory, poplar, sycamore, maple, cypress and walnut.
Grass pollen, however, is most prominent in late spring or early summer. But a person with allergies to grass pollen can be affected all year round if he or she regularly mows the lawn or sits or lies in the grass.
It’s often difficult to completely avoid season allergy triggers because they may be present for weeks at a time until flora is in full bloom. But Dr. Perin explained there are some things one can do to minimize exposure to pollen.
Pollen is usually emitted in the early morning hours so limit any outdoor activity during those times. Also try to keep your house and car windows closed during periods when pollen count is high.
Also, wash your hair before bedtime, as hair is a “magnet” for pollen, Perin advised. And get undressed whenever possible in a laundry or utility room to prevent pollen from getting on bedding, etc. Machine-dry laundry instead of air-drying outdoors to eliminate pollen “catching” on garments.
Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are high.
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
Not sure if you have a cold or allergies?
Here are a few basics on how to tell the difference:
“A viral illness like a cold typically will have some similar symptoms in addition to fever and body aches,” said Dr. Perin. “A fever is not present with allergies.”
Nasal discharge with an allergy is clear and watery; with a cold, discharge is thicker and yellowish, possibly indicating an infection.
A cold usually runs its course in a week or two; allergy symptoms last as long as the person is exposed to the trigger.
There is no cure for allergies, but Dr. Perin noted there are a number of medications that can significantly reduce symptoms.
“It’s best to start pre-season and continue until pollen drops,” said Dr. Perin, adding that for severe symptoms, “allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) do greatly reduce and sometimes eliminates symptoms.”
But the best course of action is to consult with your physician or an allergist who will be able to prescribe treatment options.