Ever wonder why your allergy symptoms tend to flare up only during certain times of year? Why April showers and May flowers are the bread on the coughing, sneezing, wheezing allergy sandwich? For some patients, the season of renewal is usually accompanied by a rebirth in allergy symptoms. In light of the changing season, we’ve put together some of our most frequently asked questions to make this year’s seasonal transition as easy as possible.
Why are my allergies so bad in the spring?
Pollen and mold are the most common contributors of spring allergies. Pollen consists of tiny granules that are carried by wind to fertilize many plants. Some of the top pollen-producing plants include:
- Trees: oak, ash, elm, birch, maple, alder, and hazel, as well as hickory, pecan, and box and mountain cedar. Evergreen juniper, cedar, cypress, and sequoia trees are also considered to be allergen producers.
- Grass: Timothy, Kentucky blue grass, Johnson, Bermuda, redtop, orchard grass, sweet vernal, perennial rye, salt grass, velvet, and fescue
- Weeds: ragweed, sagebrush, redroot pigweed, lamb’s quarters, goosefoot, tumbleweed, and English plantain
Molds are fungi related to the mushroom that can live just about anywhere, including rotting wood, soil and plants. Like pollen, mold travels through the air and wreaks havoc on the breathing passages of some allergy sufferers. Unseasonably warm winters allows for allergen-producing plants to bloom sooner and wetter, warmer temps cause mold to multiply.
If you’re allergic to pollen and mold, chances are your symptoms are going to be at high levels in the spring.
I never suffered from allergies as a kid. Why do I have symptoms now, when I’m an adult?
Just like your taste buds change every few years, your immune system also evolves and devolves with age. Adult-onset allergies are not only possible, they’re common. One reason is education and awareness. Symptoms that may have been misdiagnosed as common cold as a child could have actually been allergies. Outside of that, the human body is as mysterious as it is miraculous.
Now that I know I’m allergic, how long will my allergies last?
A cold can last a few days to a couple of weeks, but allergies can last as long as the patient is exposed to the allergen and up to a few days after exposure stops. The only way to completely stop allergies, is to stop the exposure. While there is no “cure” for allergies, there are short-term and long-term solutions to help. Over-the-counter and prescription meds can help in the short run, immunotherapy (allergy shots) can become a more permanent fix. “Rush” immunotherapy is another option for those who want to feel better faster.
Okay, how do I realistically limit my exposure to irritating allergens?
There are simple steps you can take to limit your exposure to the pollen or molds that cause your symptoms:
- Keep your windows closed. If it’s too warm inside, use air conditioning, which cleans, cools and dries the air.
- Try to stay indoors when the pollen or mold counts are high. If your symptoms are severe, wear a pollen mask if long periods of exposure are unavoidable. When you return indoors, take a shower, shampoo your hair and change/wash clothes.
- Speaking of laundry, avoid hanging clothes, towels and sheets on the line to dry.
- Avoid yard work. Mowing and raking leaves stirs up pollen and mold.
- Remove shoes before coming into the house.
- Bathe pets frequently.
- When traveling by car, keep your windows closed.
- Talk to an allergist. Develop a plan to prevent symptoms before they start as well as treating active symptoms.
- Take any medications as prescribed.
You mentioned medicine…what’s the best medicine to treat spring allergies?
- Nasal steroid sprays
- Sinus rinse (such as a Neti pot)
- Allergy shots (rush immunotherapy) administered by an allergist
How do I find an allergy doctor?
An immunologist, often referred to as an allergist, is an internist or pediatrician with at least two additional years of specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, immune deficiencies and other immunologic diseases. To become an allergist, candidates must undergo a rigorous course-load of study and training (usually around 13 years’ worth) that include four years of college, medical school, residency and fellowship in an accredited Allergy-Immunology training program. This additional training qualifies the doctor to sit for the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI) certification exam. The benefit of seeing an ABAI-certified Allergist/Immunologist is that you can be confident your physician has the practical knowledge, skills, and experience required to provide high-quality care to patients with allergic and immunologic disorders.
With the board-certified allergists at Allergy & Asthma Care, patients can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works for you and educational information to help you manage your disease and feel better. Schedule an appointment with any of our board-certified allergists at one of our five locations today!
Until then, Happy Spring!