Allergies, or allergic rhinitis, flare up when you breathe in allergens like dust, animal dander, or pollen. It’s a condition that affects a whopping 50 million Americans each year. In the Philadelphia and New Jersey area people can suffer from being exposed to tree pollen, ragweed, mold and grass pollen during the spring season.
Causes and Treatment of Allergies
While allergies are very common, here are some lesser-known facts about their causes and how to treat them.
Opening Windows for Fresh Air
As the weather clears up, we’re all eager to open our windows and let in some much needed fresh air. Before you reach for the window, be sure to keep your allergies in mind. While the breeze may feel nice, it brings pollen in with it leaving your home or car littered with the stuff that makes you sneeze.
Feeling warm? Instead, use your air conditioner. Using the A/C can reduce exposure to pollen while keeping your space cool and comfortable. You can also improve the air quality in your home by using HEPA-certified air filters, just remember to change them regularly.
While you were hibernating this winter, so was the dirt and dust in your home. To eliminate these allergens, do some spring cleaning.
- Vacuum and mop your floors to remove dust or pollen that has gathered during the winter.
- Most of us probably sweep around chairs and tables, but try temporarily rearranging your furniture to help clean those hard-to-reach places.
- Replace bed pillows and wash your bedding with hot water to get rid of any pesky dust mites that may have gathered.
- If you have kids, don’t forget to deep clean stuffed animals and blankets, clearing off pollen and dust. Toys may also bring in unwelcomed allergens, so be sure to scrub them down too.
- If cleaning products leave you sneezing or stuffy, use fragrance-free or hypoallergenic cleaners and detergents to help minimize your symptoms.
Your Furry Friend
Pets. We love them, but this time of year, Fido might be carrying around more than just his favorite bone. Pet dander can easily float around your home, being released when we pet our beloved animals or when they‘re on the move. Even “hypoallergenic” pets are not 100 percent allergen free, since allergens are found on the skin of animals, not just their fur. If you want to keep cuddling up to your pet, be sure to wash and brush your four-legged friend frequently, especially if they roam around outdoors.
Blame the Weather
Spring showers bring…allergies? After a thunderstorm, mold spores, grass, and plant pollen are disturbed and released into the air. The day after a rainstorm, the pollen counts go up and allergy symptoms are triggered. On top of rain’s effect on allergies, allergy seasons have been getting worse due to climate change and the warmer weather it’s brought about. All things considered, some may find themselves experiencing the effects of allergies for the first time. As Jeffrey Millstein, MD, primary care specialist at Penn Internal Medicine Woodbury Heights reminds us, “You can develop allergies at any age even if you didn’t have them as a child”.
While you’re checking the weather, it may be wise to check the pollen count too. The America Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology and local weather stations provide accurate, accessible pollen count information. Trees release pollen in the morning, so before you start your day, give yourself a heads-up and take note of the pollen count, especially if you plan to enjoy the day outdoors. Pollen.com has a Allergy Alert which is a free app you can download to learn about weather and allergy forecasts in your area.
Stress is not a cause for allergic reactions, but it can make your allergy symptoms worse. A study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found a link between allergy sufferers and stress. The study found that “individuals with persistent emotional stress have more frequent allergy flares.” To alleviate allergy symptoms, try “taking the edge off” with yoga, meditation, and exercise or find some time to take it easy.
PMS can intensify allergies
Guess what? Menstruation can make allergies even more troublesome. Higher levels of hormones, such as estrogen, can be blamed for worsening runny noses and itchy eyes. These same hormones may worsen allergies for expecting mothers as well.
The best way to combat seasonal allergies is by enlisting the help of over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines. Or, if you use antihistamines frequently, it may be time to switch up the routine and try a steroid nasal spray. These sprays reduce inflammation, making it harder for allergens to reach the receptors in your nasal tissue that trigger reactions.
More symptoms shouldn't mean reliance on more drugs. The best way to combat allergies is to find out exactly what’s sparking them, take charge, and reduce your exposure to the allergen when possible.
In some cases, over-the-counter medications and reducing exposure aren’t enough. You should make an appointment to see your doctor for any persistent allergy symptoms that do not respond to over-the-counter antihistamines, advises Dr. Jeffrey Millstein.
Be sure to address your allergies, so you can make the most of this beautiful time of year and enjoy the weather!