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Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Spring Has Sprung, and So Has Allergy Season

Posted By: Advancing Care

Springtime has arrived. Flowers are blooming, days are getting longer and we can once again enjoy warm weather outdoors. But along with its beauty, this season also marks the beginning of allergy season for over 25 percent of adults in the U.S.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction to pollen trees, grass and weeds, often resulting in sneezing, a runny nose, congestion, itchy and swollen eyes and sometimes asthma attacks. While dealing with allergies is never fun, thankfully there are treatment methods that can help.

Get to Know Your Triggers

Aaron Dietrich, DO
Aaron Dietrich, DO

One of the best ways to treat seasonal allergies is to get familiar with what types of plants and pollen trigger your symptoms. “The large, waxy pollen that comes from flowers doesn’t typically cause many allergy symptoms,” says Aaron Dietrich, DO, a family medicine physician at WMCHealth in Kingston. “But pollen from grass, trees and weeds is light and powdery — it’s easily blown around by the wind and therefore inhaled by people with allergies.”

Allergies are different for everyone, but common pollen triggers come from:

  • Mulberry, pine, cedar, birch, oak and willow trees
  • Bermuda, rye and oat grasses

“The timing for spring allergies also varies because of different climates and pollination cycles across the country,” says Dr. Dietrich. “Tree pollination starts as early as February, while grass pollination may start later in the spring or early summer.” This explains why you may experience seasonal allergies through springtime and summer.

Once you know your triggers and when you’re likely affected by them, it can be easier to avoid them.

Lifestyle Modifications

While you can’t always avoid going outside when pollen levels are high, there are ways to limit your exposure. First, be sure to keep windows in your home and car closed during allergy season. It’s also a good idea to avoid specific allergens that you know trigger your symptoms. “In the spring and summer, pollen levels are highest in the evening, so it’s good to stick to outdoor activities that take place in the earlier part of the day,” says Dr. Dietrich.

If you’re doing yard work like mowing the lawn or must be outside around pollen that triggers symptoms, wearing an N95 mask can help limit your exposure. In addition, changing your clothes, taking a shower and washing your hair after you come in from outdoor activities can help mitigate allergy symptoms. “You can also keep your home free from pollen by changing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) filters often, using an air purifier and vacuuming regularly,” says Dr. Dietrich.

Allergy Medications and Immunotherapy

Another way to treat seasonal allergies is by taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Many people take oral antihistamines daily during allergy season to help ease symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, swelling and congestion. Decongestants can be used for temporary relief of severe symptoms, but are not recommended for use long-term or in people who have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, glaucoma or hyperthyroidism. Another common OTC medication is corticosteroids in the form of nasal sprays, which can help reduce inflammation caused by allergies without causing significant side effects.

“It’s important to consult your primary care provider before taking any new medications,” says Dr. Dietrich. “And if OTC medications aren’t working for you, they can evaluate you to determine if prescription medication would be beneficial. In cases where this does not help, your primary care provider may refer you to an allergist to review other treatment options.”

Immunotherapy is one treatment option that could reduce your allergy symptoms long-term, without the need for daily medications. “Immunotherapy slowly and gradually exposes your body to triggers,” says Dr. Dietrich. “This allows your body to get used to allergens and stop reacting to them.” This type of treatment usually is given with injections once or twice weekly for a period of time.

If you’re facing irritating allergy symptoms this spring, make an appointment with WMCHealth Physicians Primary Care.