Winter is almost over and the trees are budding with the first signs that spring is in the air. A crocus picks up its sweet purple plumes through the last ice crystals and we draw a collective sigh of relief that, with the chill of winter, the myriad of mucus-producing viruses are finally leaving the building. And then, for many, the first deadly sneeze. Spring, in all its lush splendor, has ushered in seasonal allergies and the snotty noses and congestion that we hoped we would not return to until autumn. For many of us in Pennsylvania, seasonal allergies are not just a nuisance, they prevent outdoor living, socialization, gardening and a host of other activities that make summer, yes, summer.
But what are seasonal allergies? Why are some affected, while others are not? And the million question: what, if anything, can we do to prevent them?
First, it is important to understand that allergies develop when the immune system reacts, often excessively, to environmental factors ranging from pet dander, dust, mold and pollen to insect bites and food additives. Some people̵7;s immune systems simply react more energetically to these factors than others, and therefore an allergy occurs. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction are sneezing, runny nose, sinusitis, headache, itchy / watery eyes and rash (contact dermatitis). Seasonal allergies, often called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are just that: intense allergic reactions that tend to develop during specific seasons, most often during times of high pollination, such as spring and summer.
Depending on the location, spring allergies can start as early as February and last during the first month of summer. Then the summer allergies take over the coming months and, if you are one of the few unlucky ones, fall allergies, filled with a nice splash of early colds and other viruses, solidify misery for many of the last days before the snow flies again.
As might be expected, the climate plays a major role in seasonal allergies and severity. Tropical climates can mean that grass, a common seasonal allergen, can pollinate year-round, while rainy areas can see greater mold growth. However, some allergens are consistently ranked at the top of the list for spring / summer allergies and others in the autumn.
As previously mentioned, the nature and timing of allergens will vary depending on the climate; however, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, a few factors consistently determine prevalence.
- Pollen thrives during cool nights / hot days and peaks during the morning.
- Mold thrives in heat and high humidity.
- The number of pollen rises after rain.
- Windless days can provide some relief, as airborne allergens are less mobile; conversely, hot, windy days mean high pollen counts.
So, how do we help ourselves and our seasonal allergy-affected friends and family? The bad news: allergens are everywhere and moving elsewhere than the surface of the sun or Antarctica – no doubt problematic places for other reasons – does not help. However, the treatment options are innumerable.
First, do what you can to minimize the culprits:
- Look at the amount of mold / pollen and avoid outdoor activities at their peak
- Keep windows and doors in your house, office and car closed during high allergy seasons
- Shower and change clothes after time outdoors
- Wear a mask when working outdoors.
It may also make sense to first try some over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications. Seasonal allergy medications, which are readily available in most pharmacies and supermarkets in a variety of options, can work wonders in relieving the severity of symptoms. If OTC medications prove ineffective, it may be time to see an allergy sufferer. Allergists can help you do more than just treat symptoms. They can complete tests to determine which allergens are the most problematic, offer prescription drug options, and initiate immunotherapy, or “allergy injections,” if indicated.
For any questions, call or contact Keller-Brown Insurance Services today.