How can I make spring allergy season more bearable?
Spring and allergies go hand in hand. Warmer temperatures mean that flowers, grasses, and trees start to produce more pollen. It also means that we are more likely to spend time outdoors and come into contact with various allergens.
Depending on the part of the country where you live, spring allergy season can start as early as February and last through early summer. Common signs of spring allergies include:
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Ear congestion
- Postnasal drainage
- Runny or stuffy nose
Allergy symptoms occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a harmless foreign substance. For many of us, spring allergy symptoms are a minor annoyance. For others, however, the effects of spring allergies and fatigue can be so debilitating that it is almost impossible to function normally.
Why is it so hard to control spring allergy symptoms?
There are several reasons why spring allergies are so difficult to manage. With so many different flowers, grasses, and trees pollinating during the spring and summer months, there are lots of different allergens in the environment. With the large number of potential suspects, it can be difficult to identify the specific one causing your symptoms. In fact, many seasonal allergy sufferers actually have multiple allergies, which increases the likelihood that they will come into contact with an offending allergen and experience symptoms.
Some studies suggest that climate changes, such as warmer temperatures and increased CO2 levels, favor longer growing seasons for the plants and weeds that trigger allergy symptoms. This means that the number of people suffering from spring allergies and the severity and duration of symptoms may increase. There is also some evidence that changing diets and improved hygiene serve to limit our exposure to allergens early in life and can alter our natural immune response to these otherwise harmless substances.
What effect can stress have on spring allergy symptoms?
There are physical and psychological reasons why it may seem like your allergy symptoms are worse when you are stressed. Stress amplifies our emotional response to our environment and what we may be experiencing, so you will tend to feel the fatigue and other symptoms more intensely. The hormones our bodies naturally release during times of stress can also strengthen the body’s already exaggerated immune response and increase the severity of the symptoms.
Is there a connection between springtime allergies and food allergies?
Studies have shown that certain foods and drinks can cause or worsen spring allergies. Certain foods, especially those that are pickled, aged, or fermented, contain natural histamines that can trigger allergy symptoms. Some foods also contain some of the same proteins found in pollens that cause seasonal allergies, which can cause what is known as oral allergy syndrome. For example, individuals with grass allergies may notice that they get a scratchy throat when they eat celery, and individuals who are allergic to birch and alder tree pollen may want to avoid parsley.
What are some common triggers for spring allergies?
When most of us think about spring and allergies, we tend to think of pollen, grass, and mold. There are, however, other triggers that can cause or exacerbate seasonal allergy symptoms, including insect bites and stings and the chlorine used in indoor and outdoor pools.
What is the best way to manage springtime allergies?
Here are steps you can take to minimize your spring allergy symptoms:
- Over-the-counter allergy remedies are very effective for most individuals with mild to moderate allergy symptoms. For the best results, you should start taking a spring allergy treatment a couple of weeks before you normally start to experience symptoms. If you take other prescription or over-the-counter medications or have chronic health conditions, you should consult your doctor to determine the type of medication that is best for you.
- Do your best to limit your exposure to allergens that are likely to trigger your symptoms. For example:
- Keep windows closed.
- Avoid going outdoors when pollen and mold counts are expected to be high.
- Change clothes and take a shower after being outdoors.
- Wear a mask when mowing or taking part in activities that are likely to kick up dust and other allergens.
- Dust, vacuum, and mop frequently to reduce the amount of allergens in your home.
- If you still experience severe symptoms even when taking over-the-counter allergy medications, you may want to talk to your doctor about beginning immunotherapy. This involves taking injections containing various concentrations of the offending allergen to desensitize your immune system.