Spring is officially here and so are the warm temperatures! But, are you finding yourself with the onset of a sudden, never-ending cold? If so, you may be one of the estimated 40 to 60 million Americans suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly referred to as “hay fever,” usually occurs in the spring, summer, and fall and is caused by “allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores or top pollen from grass, trees, and weeds.” Hay fever symptoms consist of a runny nose and congestion, wheezing, and itchy eyes or skin. Think of it as a season-long cold that just won’t go away.
For some, hay fever is an entirely new experience. You may have welcomed spring in the past, but now you feel like you’ve been hit by a nasty cold, and that the usual Dayquil or Sudafed is not doing the trick. If so, it may be time to get tested and visit an allergist to pinpoint exactly what you are experiencing. Skin tests, which consist of injecting or pricking the allergen into the skin and waiting for results, or newer blood tests that only require one blood draw, along with clues about your lifestyle can help to identify your specific allergens.
If you do find yourself a victim of seasonal allergic rhinitis, here are some tips to avoid exposure to your trigger allergens and prevent allergic reactions:
- Avoid going outdoors between the hours of 5 am and 10 am. Pollen counts are the highest between these hours on dry, windy, and warm days. The best times for outdoor activities are in the evening or after a heavy rainstorm.
- Keep windows in your house and car closed to avoid bringing the allergens inside. • Clean out or change the air filters at home.
- When driving, put the air on re-circulate once you have reached a comfortable temperature. This prevents more air from the outdoors being brought inside the car.
- Take a shower when coming in from being outside. This helps wash the pollen off your body. Also, change clothes upon entering your house. If you wash your clothes opt for using the dryer instead of hanging clothes outside to prevent allergens from landing on clean clothing.
- Wear a mask while mowing the lawn and aim to keep your lawn short.
- Take over-the-counter medication such as decongestants or antihistamines. Remember, medicines can assist in hindering symptoms but do not cure allergies.
- Get allergy shots. Given by allergists, allergy shots are a long-term option for decreasing symptoms.
Allergic rhinitis is a pesky condition that, although common among Americans, can really put a damper on one’s lifestyle. Taking preventative measures can lessen the severity of an allergic reaction and make everyday life much more tolerable. Whether you are new to hay fever, or have experienced it for years, take the time to get tested and visit an allergist to assist you with managing seasonal allergies!