Spring is on its way, carrying long-awaited warmth and sunshine…and with it, seasonal allergies. If you’re one of the 35 million Americans who suffer from allergies, spring can be a little less joyful. When the air is full of pollen, mold, and other allergens, your immune system goes into overdrive and you wind up sneezing and stuffy, with red, itchy eyes. If this sounds all too familiar, you probably have allergies.
What causes spring allergy symptoms?
When pollen enters your body through the nose, mouth, or eye membranes, your immune system sees the foreign molecules as invaders, like bacteria or virus. It releases antibodies to combat the “infection,” and chemicals called histamines are released. Histamines cause the symptoms; runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, post-nasal drip, sneezing, coughing, and other annoying responses.
Pollen is lightweight and airborne. It can travel for miles, leaving allergy sufferers miserable in its wake. When the pollen count is high, it can be truly uncomfortable. Most local weather stations offer information about the daily pollen count.
The most common sources of spring allergies:
Tree Pollen – Trees are everywhere, and the kinds of trees that throw off pollen include some of the most common varieties in North America such as Alder, Ash, Elm, Maple, Oak, Sycamore, and more.
Grasses and weeds – Most varieties of grass and weeds are pollen culprits. In the spring, grass and weeds grow like…well, weeds.
Mold – Mold is a year-round allergy, but after a cold, wet winter, mold spores really kick up production in the spring and summer. Mold and pollen get around the same way, carried on the wind. Mold can be found indoors or out, and cause the same allergy symptoms to pollen.
Pollen is at its worst when the weather is dry and breezy. Rain washes pollens out of the air, so the pollen count is lower on rainy days.
Spring allergy testing
If you have allergy symptoms, which can run from mildly annoying to downright debilitating, consider having an allergy test. Lab technicians will take a sample of your blood and test for the specific types of allergens in your area. You may find you’re allergic to a single allergen or to a whole host of different things. Knowing what you’re up against will rule out other possible causes of your symptoms and help you decide how to handle it.
What you can do
Talk to your doctor. There are any number of prescription and over-the-counter allergy relief medications available. It may take some experimentation to find the one that works best for you. Since all medications can interact with other things you’re taking, it’s important to discuss options with your doctor.
Unless you live in an area devoid of trees and grasses, spring allergens are hard to avoid.
Keeping your doors and windows closed on days when pollen is high will help, as long as you clean the air filter for your air conditioning unit regularly and vacuum at least twice a week. When you vacuum, wear a dust mask to protect against the dust and pollen that will float up. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter will help keep fine particles where they belong – trapped.
Pollen and other allergens will collect everywhere, just like dust, so regular dusting will help, as will an air purifier. Finally, if you’re very sensitive and you must go out when the pollen is high, change clothes and wash your hair when you return home. Pollen sticks to everything. And by the way, allergies can develop at any time in your life.