St. Rita’s health focus: Battling spring allergies

By Jenelle Niese - Guest Columnist

As many people are excited about the beginning of spring and the hope of nice warm sunny days, there are others who dread this allergy season. The trees will be blooming, people will begin to cut grass and spring cleaning with embark. Those suffering from spring allergies may begin to battle itchy watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion and sneezing.

“Please pass the tissues” is a common question for those suffering from spring allergies. Their immune system overreacts to things such as dust, pollen, mold, weeds or grass because it has it on radar that these substances are harmful. In a chain reaction, their body starts building up antibodies called immunoglobulin E which signals histamines that leads to the development of all those physical manifestations.

The good news is those suffering from spring time allergies can find relief. First it would be a good idea to talk with your primary care provider regarding your symptoms and what is your best plan of action to take. They will ask about your history, do a physical exam and possibly do lab work to see what exactly you are allergic to. Many people are diagnosed with allergies when they are younger, however it can be acquired in adulthood as well. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies are on the rise affecting nearly 40 percent of the United States.

One of the initial steps in treatment is avoidance, or moderating contact with your known allergens. For example, if you are allergic to grass you can either wear a mask to do the mowing task or assign it to another family member. Spray weed killers on the grass as well. Allergens such as pollen can easily be tracked in the house, so removing your shoes and wiping paws of your family pets is important.

Aim for clean pure air. You can do this by leaving the windows shut instead of airing the house out. While driving, turn on the air conditioner instead of rolling windows down. (You don’t want your hair messed up anyway, right?) Pollen count is highest in the early hours, so if outside work is on your list then scheduling a time later in the day is ideal. A free, very helpful app to get on your phone that is good to use to track when pollen counts are high is Allergy Alert.

Household tasks needs to be carried out differently to combat allergies, too. If you do laundry it is best not to hang outside to dry because then it can pick up all those irritants and you will be wearing them! Frequent housecleaning is advised such as stripping the linens off beds on a routine basis and even buying mattress and pillow protectors so allergens can’t raise havoc while you sleep.

There are many measures a person suffering from allergies can try other than just sheer avoidance, because that is not always possible. One measure would be to discuss with your provider different medication options. Common medications that are given are antihistamines such as Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin. Another type of medication that is becoming more popular are nasal steroids such as Flonase or Nasonex. If all these measures fail then you may get referred to an allergist to consider immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots.

While allergy season can be daunting for many, it isn’t impossible to battle up against. Avoidance of triggers, teaming up with your primary care provider and utilizing various medications can get you through even days with the highest pollen count. With this news, hopefully everyone can look forward to sunnier, warmer days! Cheers for a happy spring and hopefully at least one less tissue!

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