Itching for Spring or Just Itching
Spring has officially sprung—according to the calendar at least, who knows what Mother Nature may have in store for us these days! And as the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers which means many of us will be reaching for tissues and antihistamines in no time as seasonal allergies bloom.
One of the biggest triggers for allergy sufferers is pollen, the tiny little grains released from trees, grass, flowers, and weeds that are blown throughout the air to help fertilize plants. “For an allergy sufferer the immune system sees these grains as an intruder and works to attack it,” explains Jonathan Andersen, DO. “This releases histamines into the blood stream which are responsible for itchy eyes, scratchy throats, runny noses, and sneeze attacks.”
If you are prone to these symptoms, you should talk to your primary care doctor about finding relief. They may recommend starting with available over the counter medications such as a decongestant which helps reduce nasal swelling and an antihistamine which reduces or blocks histamines to stop allergy symptoms. With a few steroid nasal sprays now available over the counter, you have more options for a nasal decongestant as a course of action. “Seeking your physician’s guidance will help you choose the right medications. Your doctor will take into consideration any other medications that you are taking and discuss possible interactions,” explains Dr. Andersen.
If you continue to suffer, your doctor may recommend prescription medications and further suggest you see an allergist who can conduct a number of tests to identify which allergens trigger your body’s response and develop a treatment plan accordingly.
In the meantime, there are a few measures you can take in your daily routine to reduce the impact of pollen. Despite the fact that some of these recommendations may seem out of the question after a cold winter, they can help alleviate symptoms.
Start by keeping your windows and doors closed during the spring months as this can help keep pollen and other allergens out. You should get into the habit of tracking the pollen count, which is usually displayed right with your local weather forecast—if it is high, stay indoors. Pollen counts are highest in the mornings and wane throughout the day. Windy days lead to more pollen in the air. If you venture outside, remove the clothes you were wearing outdoors as pollen can collect in the fibers. And before climbing into bed at night, take a shower to get the pollen off of your skin and out of your hair. Clean air filters in your home, vacuum twice a week or more, and consider using an air purifier.
Avoiding pollen all together is nearly impossible but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through this allergy season. Be proactive and to talk to your doctor about your options.