Tips About How to Manage Spring Allergies - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

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Published on May 16, 2013

Tips About How to Manage Spring Allergies

If images of the vibrant flowers and green trees of spring trigger memories of red, watery eyes, itchy skin, and a stuffy nose, you’re probably one of the millions of Americans suffering from seasonal allergies. And as much as you want to embrace the warmer weather with your friends and family this season, the allergy-cloud that hovers over your head seems to only bring you down.

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but allergy season will be hitting us hard this year, starting earlier and ending later than usual — even as late as October. And thanks to heavy precipitation from the last winter season and climate changes, which caused plants to produce up to five times more pollen than usual, those with allergies aren’t the only ones expected to fall victim to high allergen levels.

“With the pollen count being quite high this year, people who previously had no trouble with allergies may experience some symptoms this year,” said Christine Donohue-Henry, a family medicine specialist and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine for Crozer-Keystone Health System.

Allergies are the result of an abnormal response of your immune system, which reacts to substances in the environment that are usually considered harmless. Seasonal allergies in particular are caused by allergens in the outside environment, such as mold and pollen from grass, weeds, trees, and flowers, and lead to symptoms including sneezing, drowsiness, and an itchy or runny nose. More severe symptoms can impact your entire body and require medical attention. These include hives, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the throat, and more.

Some people might not even be aware they have allergies, or may not develop it until they’re older. As a result, many people often mistake allergy symptoms for those caused by cold or the flu.

So how do you know the difference? Donohue-Henry said, “Most colds clear up in 7-10 days, while allergy symptoms can last much longer. If your cold symptoms don’t go away, see your healthcare provider.” 

So now for the good news. Whether you’ve suffered from seasonal allergies for years or were recently diagnosed, there are plenty of ways you can manage your symptoms:

Take Medication: It’s best to start taking medication before your allergies are in full swing. Some options include nasal antihistamines, oral antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, and combined medications. Each of these remedies treat different symptoms, including stuffy and runny nose, itching, water eyes, and sneezing, so discuss your options with your doctor.

Know Your Pollen Counts: Check the allergen levels in your area from sources such as the Weather Channel or the National Allergy Bureau. If you know that pollen counts are going to be particularly high, you should take extra precaution and either avoid it by staying indoors on windy, dry days, or protect yourself outside by wearing the right accessories. Large sunglasses aren’t just a fashion statement; they also can protect your eyes from pollen in the air. Also, be sure to change your clothes after being outside for a long period of time. Pollen can stick to you clothes, so it’s best to swap them for clean, allergen-free ones.

Exercise: Physical activity boosts your immune system, which can also help alleviate your allergy symptoms. But avoid exercising outdoors, since this will only inflame your symptoms even more. Also, try to have others take care of your lawn so you can avoid extra exposure to freshly cut grass and weeds.

Eat Right: Allergy-fighting foods, such as ones that are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, should definitely be included in your diet during high-pollen seasons. So your weekly shopping list should include green tea and red foods, such as apples, grapes, raspberries, and red onions.

Allergy Shots: For those with chronic and severe allergies, your doctor may recommend allergy shots, which desensitizes you to the substances you’re allergic to. The magic potion that relieves your symptoms? An injection of small amounts of the allergen causing your immune system to attack. Over time, your body’s immune system will cease to react so strongly to your seasonal triggers.

To learn more about the Crozer-Keystone Health System, or to find a physician who’s right for you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH or call www.crozerkeystone.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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