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Surviving Spring Allergies

Who doesn’t love the joy of a spring day after a long winter? The trees are flashing their new green, robins are back in the yard, the first colorful flower wildflowers are emerging with a vibrant new sense of energy.

Aah, but then comes a certain price to pay for millions of people. It’s sneezing, sniffling, puffy eyes, nostrils that swell and make it difficult to breathe. 

Yes, hope “springs” eternal but so do spring allergies! 

Why Allergies in the Spring? 

Along with Mother Nature’s awakening plants comes the trillions of tiny pollens they release into the air. Trees and plants send out pollen as part of their reproduction process. Because they are rooted in one location, they rely on the wind to carry their spores to their plant kingdom pals.

When we breathe in those spores, our body’s natural defense system reacts to them as if they are an invading force. Our immune system is designed to seek out and destroy germs, viruses and bacteria. However, an overly aggressive immune system will not discriminate between plant pollen and, say, a cold virus.

Why is it that when you sniffle, sneeze and deal with itchy eyes, others around you are unaffected? It’s because their immune systems know the difference between a germ and a pollen spore. But don’t feel bad. This is a “blame thing.” If you suffer allergy symptoms, it’s actually because your immune system is just trying to go the extra mile to help you out!

Breezy Days, High Pollen Counts

The worst days tend to be when the air is dry and when it’s breezy outside. The wind can then spread the problem-causing particles far and wide. On rainy days, pollen spores get washed out of the atmosphere and are far less of a problem.

Note that allergies caused by tiny plant agents are not only an artifact of spring. The summer months bring continuing periods of pollen production as varied species of trees and plants follow their own reproductive patterns and timing. The fall can be especially bad because spores and pollens have been building up all summer.

Recognizing Allergies by Their Symptoms

The most common symptoms of spring allergies are:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Swollen air passages in the nose, making it difficult to breathe
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watering eyes
  • Dark rings under the eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Skin conditions, such as hives and eczema

Some people who suffer severe allergic reactions may wonder if something is more seriously wrong with them, especially when they confront it for the first time or when their conditions are severe. 

Certainly, some people suffer serious breathing disruptions due to spring pollen allergies. They may experience ongoing shortness of breath. Others may encounter significant swelling and rashes, such as hives and dry skin patches. People with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma and COPD may face even greater difficulty.

How Do You Know for Sure? 

The best way to find the underlying cause of your symptoms is to consult first with your regular doctor. He or she can quickly rule out anything more serious. Your doctor may then refer you to an allergist.

If your allergist feels it’s warranted, he or she may conduct a skin test. This involves exposing the surface of your skin to a sample of well-known allergy-causing substances. It’s called a “prick test” because an incredibly tiny needle is used to deliver the sample to your skin. If you are allergic to the sample, a red bump called a hive (or wheal) will appear. In some cases, an allergist will order a blood test.

If the test shows specific reactions to well-identified substances, the allergy specialist may opt to write you a prescription. They may even give you an injection if they feel it’s warranted.

Over-the-Counter Options

The fact is that most people don’t go the doctor route and treat themselves with the allergy remedies one can purchase over the counter (OTC) and without a prescription.

Certainly, we’re all familiar with the many products available since all of us are bombarded daily with scads of advertising offering one allergy medicine brand or another. OTC allergy is among the most heavily advertised sector.

Briefly, the primary categories of OTC offerings are:

Antihistamines 

They block natural substances called histamines in your body to reduce sniffling, sneezing and itching.

Decongestants

They work by shrinking blood vessels in your nasal passages to open breathing.

Antihistamine-Decongestant Combo Formula

They do what both the antihistamines and decongestants do in one dose

Nasal Sprays

They are decongestants formulated as a spray you can inject into the nose.

Steroidal Nasal Sprays

Three brands of nasal spray that contain steroids can be purchased over the counter. They are Flonase, Rhinocort and Nasacort. They reduce inflammation like a decongestant. 

Eye Drops

These contain a decongestant substance called Ketotifen. It will reduce the irritation of itchy, puffy eyes and watery eyes.

While most people are comfortable with buying whatever is on the shelf and simply “giving it a try,” the Mayo Clinic recommends that people consult with a doctor before taking OTC allergy drugs. That’s especially the case if you are currently taking other prescription drugs to treat another condition.

Getting Through Allergy Season

Surviving Spring Allergies Guide - Retire Ease

It’s important to note that, when it comes to allergies, it may be the case that a drug treatment approach is not the only option, even though it tends to be the first lane of action most people take.

But there are many other steps you can take, such as avoiding high pollen areas when you go outdoors — or avoiding going out as much as possible during peak pollen season. Your local weather information service will generally alert you when pollen counts have spiked.

Another idea is to deploy an air purifier in your home. There are also a host of natural and home remedies that are safe and effective. Furthermore, staying fit and healthy while maintaining an excellent diet will help keep your natural immune system in balance. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (no smoking!) is among your best strategies for nurturing an optimal overall physical condition.

About RetireEase Senior Care

For more information about health topics that affect senior citizens, check out the blog at RetireEase Senior Center headquartered in Lexington, South Carolina. RetireEase Senior Care provides superior in-home health care services designed to make a positive difference in the lives of senior citizens and the families who care for them.

RetireEase Senior Center serves the cities of Lexington, Richland, Kershaw, Elgin, Fairfield, Columbia, Lugoff, Lake Murray, Irmo and Lake Wateree. Contact us today!