They say March roars in like a lion and right behind him… allergy season. Especially for regions in the country like Florida that rarely see snow, allergy seasons hits hard. As soon as the days start to lengthen, grass and trees begin to grow, releasing pollen to spread. As if we haven’t seen enough of the drama in 2018, similar to the flu, spring allergies are expected to be particularly harsh this year.
What exactly is an allergy?
An allergy is when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen. This reaction can cause coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose and a scratchy throat. In severe cases, it can cause rashes, hives, low blood pressure, breathing trouble, or asthma attacks. Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies quit yet, but many options to manage them.
When is allergy season?
We throw around the term “allergy season” a lot, but the reality is there isn’t one season when everyone’s allergies collectively flare up. “‘Peak’ allergy season varies for each individual depending on what they may be allergic to and the region of the country they live in. Seasonal allergies generally hit in waves, first starting with tree pollen from February through May, followed by grass which lasts until July, then August and the fall bring mold spores which take their toll in humid climates and lastly ragweed, which lasts until November.
How many people are affected by allergies?
More than 50 million people in the United States, although continuously increasing, suffer from allergies each year. Overall, allergies affect as many as 30% of adults and 40% of children. In the U.S., allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness. Annual cost of allergies exceeds $18 billion.
How many people get sick from allergies?
People visit the emergency room about 200,000 times each year because of allergies and almost 10,000 people stay in the hospital each year because of allergies.
What is the difference between outdoor and indoor allergies?
Many people with allergies often have more than one type. Seasonal (outdoor) allergies are only present during peak pollination times of specific allergens: trees, grass, mold, and ragweed. Perennial (indoor) allergies are not only present at all times, but they’re also caused by different allergens, with the exception of mold, which can cause both seasonal and perennial allergies. Instead of plants, year-round allergies are typically triggered by insects (dust mites and cockroaches) and animals (cats and dogs).
Surviving Allergy Season:
Like we mentioned earlier, you cannot prevent allergies, but you can prevent your allergic reactions. Doing so, according to the CDC, requires you to take control of your environment and minimize triggers the best you can!
Is it really an allergy? If so, get proper treatment.
The sudden swing from cold to hot weather can make it hard to tell an allergic reaction from a cold or virus, particularly if you don’t usually get seasonal allergies. A golden rule for allergies? If your congestion lasts for more than two weeks OR the absence of fever and aches occur, it’s probably allergies. From there, an allergist or your primary care doctor can recommend a variety of medications, some over-the-counter and some prescription, to improve your symptoms.
Know your triggers.
Triggers, or allergens, can vary by individual and region, but two main culprits each year seem to trend:
- Ragweed and other weed pollen. Ragweed is a stubborn plant and grows easily in fields, along roadsides, and in vacant lots. A plant can produce a billion pollen grains in a season, and the grains can travel up to 400 miles each.
- Outdoor molds grow in heavy vegetation, hay and straw, and are found in raked leaves. Outdoor molds increase after rain or humidity, too.
In addition, if you have seasonal allergies to ragweed, beware of eating certain foods that may trigger your symptoms: bananas, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea.
If you have seasonal allergies, keep tabs on the weather and daily pollen count. When it’s high, try to stay inside. Keep your windows and doors shut to minimize exposure. Also, make sure to continuously run your AC. This may mean trading your daily neighborhood stroll for a treadmill at the gym. Pollen tends to be highest in the mid- to late-afternoon, so try to run errands first thing in the morning or after work instead of during your lunch break.
When you’re outside, it never hurts to wear a mask to minimize your exposure to pollen. You can buy disposable or washable masks for cheap, so there’s no excuse for you not to get them. In addition, sunglasses are a great source for protecting your eyes.
Modify your indoor environment.
It is highly unlikely you can stay home all season, so when you come back to your home after being outside, change your clothes and take off your shoes. Take a shower and rinse any pollen from your hair and skin. If you have any pets, wipe them down, too. Regularly vacuum, and immediately after an allergy peak, deep clean your house and replace filters. If possible, keep your home’s humidity below 50% with a dehumidifier. If you’re allergic to mold, make sure there are no warm, dark, and humid places inside your home for them to grow in.
Give salt water a try.
Not a fan of medication? Try a saline nasal rinse, which helps clear allergens like pollen from your nasal membranes, minimizing symptoms. Gargling with salt water can also soothe a sore or scratchy throat. Do this once or twice a day throughout allergy season to ease congestion.
Take allergy symptoms seriously.
You may brush off congestion or a lingering headache as “just allergies,” but the truth is that allergy symptoms can take a big toll on your well-being. If you’re feeling really bad, give in to your body: rest, go to bed early, or take a sick day.
ProHealth can Help!
If you confused on whether or not you have allergies or a lingering cold or virus, ProHealth Medical Providers can help! They are here to diagnose exactly what your problem is and direct you to things that will relieve your symptoms. You can feel better soon!