Spring has finally arrived in the New River Valley. The warm sunshine is inviting. Birds are chirping; flowers are in bloom; and your seasonal allergies are going crazy! According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control over 8% of American adults suffer from seasonal allergies. We gathered some information about how to combat or treat allergy symptoms so you can enjoy spring instead of loathing its arrival.
What causes allergies?
Seasonal allergies flare up when pollens and other allergens are released into the air. Trees, grass, flowers, and even weeds release pollen into the air to fertilize other plants. The pollen is carried on the wind, spread by birds and insects, and even collects in your clothing and hair.
When you breathe in the pollen, your immune system goes into overdrive to protect you from what it assumes must be a dangerous invader. It releases antibodies to attack the allergens. The release of antibodies causes a release of histamines into your bloodstream, triggering all your unpleasant allergy symptoms.
You aren’t imagining that every year seems to be labeled “the worst for allergy symptoms”. Pollen counts are on the rise and experts predict they will double by 2040. Mild winters often cause an early release of pollen and extend the allergy season—and your symptoms.
Common Allergy Symptoms
Everyone experiences slightly varied allergy symptoms. The most common spring allergy symptoms range from sneezing, runny nose, irritated eyes, and nasal congestion to wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and even difficulty breathing.
Seasonal allergies can increase the frequency and severity of respiratory symptoms in people with asthma.
Pollen counts tend to be higher on breezy days since the wind picks up and distributes more pollen. Rainy days help wash the pollen and allergens away, allowing your symptoms to subside. Of course, the rain also helps plants grow, which then produce more pollen.
How to combat seasonal allergies
While there are no cures for seasonal allergies (yet), there are a number of things you can do to reduce exposure to allergens and help combat your symptoms.
Early and proactive intervention: Make an appointment with your allergist in January or February to get an early jump on combating allergy symptoms. While there isn’t a cure for allergy symptoms there are treatments.
Allergy shots can stave off symptoms and prevent them from getting worse over time. There are also oral antihistamines that help suppress symptom-causing histamines in your blood. Nasal decongestants are usually over-the-counter options for short-term relief. Eye drops and nasal steroid sprays are available over the counter or with prescriptions.
Use an allergy tracker: Tracking your symptoms over time with allergy tracker apps and other tools can help your allergist fine-tune the immunotherapy treatment.
Many apps also predict and track pollen counts, allowing you to take proactive measures to combat allergy symptoms. The National Allergy Bureau provides daily pollen counts.
Close your windows and stay indoors: Stay indoors during times when the pollen counts are high. Keep your home and car windows closed to prevent pollen from collecting inside.
Shut the vents in your car and either turn on the air conditioning or recirculate the air. This will significantly reduce pollen exposure while you’re on the road.
Cleanliness counts: Dust and vacuum frequently to keep pollen and allergens from collecting around your house. For best results use a “pet-friendly” vacuum. They tend to do a better job of collecting and trapping allergens. Wear a mask while you clean because dusting and vacuuming stir up allergens that can trigger your symptoms.
Change or clean your air filters often to prevent circulating allergens around your home. Cleaning your air vents will also help the overall air quality.
Showering at the end of the day or when you come home from work can make a big difference. Allergens (and germs) collect on your body, hair, and clothing throughout the day. Showering when you come home cleans the pollen off your skin, reducing irritation.
Changing clothes after being outside or when you get home from work helps reduce the spread of allergens around your house. Also, avoid drying your clothes outside during allergy season. Pollen easily settles in fibers and when you put the clothes on later it can trigger your allergy symptoms.
Install a whole-home HEPA system: Portable air purifiers are not very effective but a whole-home air purification system dramatically reduce the spread of allergens, bacteria, dust, and even viruses. A “high-efficiency particulate arresting filter” (HEPA) traps out 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger. This system dramatically reduces allergens in your home and improves overall air quality.
Natural remedies: Some people find relief from more natural allergy remedies. Nasal irrigation with a neti pot or squeeze bottle helps clear mucus and allergens and open your sinus passages. Use warm saline solution for the sinus flush. Don’t forget to wash the neti pot or bottle after each use and make sure it dries thoroughly to prevent mold or mildew from growing.
While seasonal allergies affect people differently, there are methods to combat the causes and reduce symptoms. AirTech is standing by to help make your home or office a safe-haven against pollen and allergens with a variety of air filtration options.