The trees and flowers are blooming, and the temperatures are rising. Why, then, are you so miserable? If you suffer from allergies, those beautiful blooms can make spring a challenge.
"Spring is the time of year when all the trees release their pollen into the atmosphere. This results in extremely high pollen counts beginning in April through May," explains Robert J. Settipane, MD, a physician on staff at Kent Hospital who maintains a private allergy and immunology practice in Warwick.
These outdoor allergens – the most common of which are pollen and mold spores (indoors, the most common allergens are dust mites and animal dander ) – trigger a release of histamine and other respiratory inflammatory mediators in the body. This results in watery and itchy eyes and nose, sneezing and nasal congestion. Some people may even experience allergy-induced asthma, Dr. Settipane says.
While allergy symptoms are more common in younger people, many adults claim to be experiencing their first symptoms.
"People can develop allergies for the first time at any age of life," Dr. Settipane admits.
Pinpoint the cause
In mild cases of allergies, avoiding the allergens can prevent the symptoms, he continues. When that is impossible, over-the-counter and prescription medications can make a big difference.
"Over-the-counter, non-sedating antihistamines can be purchased very inexpensively in generic form," he says. "However, prescription nasal sprays and allergy eye drops are typically much more effective."
To determine exactly what is triggering an allergic response in your body, you may want to consider allergy testing with an allergy and immunology specialist. Tests can be done through blood testing or directly on your skin, which is the less expensive option.
Another possible treatment, Dr. Settipane mentions, is called "allergy desensitization" injections which can reprogram your immune system to be less allergic. A specialist can help with that.
There are ways you can minimize your exposure to allergens. Dr. Settipane suggests:
- Stay indoors and keep the windows closed as much as possible
- Keep your car's ventilation system in recirculation mode to prevent outdoor air from entering the vehicle
- Change your clothes and shower after being outdoors to remove the pollen from your skin, clothes and hair