Most people can hardly wait for the arrival of spring, following the cough, cold and flu season, cold weather and being cooped up indoors from the cold.
But along with the warm weather comes the pollens and molds that plague those of us with seasonal allergies.
TREE POLLEN In northern parts of the U.S., the earliest pollen triggers come from trees. In the Midwest, Elm trees begin to pollinate as early as February or March when the temperature rises. Cottonwoods, Birch, Maple and Oak soon follow in March, April and May. Grass pollen jumps into the mix in May and June followed by ragweed in mid August.
MOLDS Molds emerge from their winter time dormant state at first thaw in the spring. In northern states mold counts peak in late summer and early fall. The first sustained frost, usually in late fall, signals the end of outdoor mold. Learn more about pollen and mold counts in your area by visiting the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) Web site and the National Allergy Bureau.
7 TIPS FOR PREPARING FOR ALLERGY SEASON People with seasonal allergies often forget about their plight over the winter months. Before they can fully enjoy the spring and summer weather, nasal itching, runny nose, sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes zero in to spoil the fun.
What can allergy sufferers do to prepare for outdoor allergy season?
Here are seven tips (most of these tips are recommended by the AAAAI):
1) Visit your doctor. Talk to your doctor about starting your allergy medications before the pollens and molds get underway. In the Midwest this is usually by March (earlier if warm weather begins in February). Non-drowsy antihistamines are preferred. Prescription nasal sprays (nasal steroids) have become key players in managing nasal allergies. They should also be started a 1-2 weeks before your pollen season begins.
2) Keep windows and doors shut at home. Your screens will not keep out those tiny pollens and molds that may find their way to your eyes and nose even while inside the house. Consider running the a/c earlier in the year if it gets stuffy.
3) Keep the car windows up. When in your car, keep your windows up. If you can adjust your vent to re-circulate inter-compartment air, do it! Sorry, this also means keeping the sunroof closed.
4) Time outdoor activities properly. Try to avoid outdoor activities in the early and mid-morning hours. Pollen counts tend to be higher in the morning.
5) Take your antihistamines. If yard work is unavoidable, take your antihistamine at least two hours before going out if it is a once or twice daily pill. Consider wearing a dust mask and glasses while working. Remove your clothing and take a shower immediately after going back in the house.
6) Know your allergens. If you have some allergy symptoms during winter months you are probably allergic to dust mite, pets or mold spores. Indoor environmental controls may help you during the outdoor allergy seasons by reducing your response to these indoor triggers over night. Sometimes indoor triggers are more of a problem when the outdoor allergens pick up (a process called priming).
7) Wash out your nose. Keep some nasal saline around to rinse out your nasal passages two or three times a day when allergy symptoms are more active. Many people have discovered that sinus drainage and congestion is greatly reduced by once or twice daily nasal rinses with saline.
Consider seeing a board certified allergist if the above tips do not help. You need to identify specific allergy trigger factors and get advice on how to further reduce them. Your medications may also be adjusted to achieve better control. You may be a candidate for allergy shots if certain allergens cannot be avoided or if environmental controls and medications fail to work.
Dr. Thompson is a board-certified allergist and belongs to a large single specialty group in downtown Chicago, and south Chicago suburbs. He has been in practice for 18 years and has conducted clinical research and published papers on asthma and allergy problems. Visit his blog: www.allergy-asthmacorner.com
Board Certified Allergist and Asthma Specialist