This week, we’ve said goodbye to winter and welcomed the first signs of spring. The trees are budding, the grass is getting greener, and spring flowers are beginning to paint the landscape.
For many, though, the beauty of spring comes with the curse of spring allergies.
A mild winter in some parts of the country means higher than normal pollen counts, which is compounded by drastic temperature fluctuations in some regions. Many areas of the country experienced a “false spring” where temperatures rose, dropped significantly, and rose again. This pattern hits allergy sufferers particularly hard, according to Stanley M. Fineman, MD, an Atlanta-based allergist and past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. According to Dr. Fineman, warmer temperatures cause pollen counts to rise, but when the temperature goes down, allergy sufferers get a bit of a break. When the temperature – and pollen counts – rise again, these allergy sufferer's systems are “primed” to respond, often making it more difficult to get symptoms under control.
The best time to treat allergies, doctors say, is before they flare-up. Once the body begins reacting to allergens, it becomes more difficult to get symptoms under control. A proactive approach – treating allergies before symptoms set in – improves the chances of controlling symptoms.
Here are some proactive strategies for attacking allergens before they attack you:
Avoid allergens when you can
This seems obvious and maybe easier said than done, but on higher-pollen-count days, avoid being outdoors if you can. Pollen levels will be highest in the morning, so if you have to go out, try to avoid the morning and take allergy medications with you. If you need to work outside, wear a mask. Also, while it’s nice to let in some nice spring air, keep windows and doors closed on high-pollen days and run the air conditioner instead.
Get rid of allergens
Taking a shower at the end of the day helps wash sticky pollen grains from your hair, which can help you get a better night’s sleep. Within your home, diligent cleaning can help reduce allergens that may build-up. This includes regular dusting and vacuuming, keeping tubs and showers free of mold and mildew, and keep “dust collectors” like stuffed animals and rugs, stored away. Changing air filters monthly will help keep the air inside your home clean.
Know your allergies
Allergens are varied, and abundant in many parts of the country. Some allergy sufferers are hit hardest by pollen, others by dust, mold, or mildew. A variety of allergy treatments exist as well, from over-the-counter oral medications to allergy shots. The better you can pinpoint your allergy triggers, the more success you’re likely to have finding treatment and prevention that works best for you.
For most people, seasonal allergies are a temporary nuisance, but for some, allergies are a more serious threat. Individuals with asthma, breathing difficulties, or weakened immune systems should be especially diligent in avoiding and controlling allergens. If your allergy symptoms become severe, it’s wise to seek medical attention.
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