Ah, spring. The sun shines, the birds chirp, and people everywhere sneeze and cough from allergies. Spring is usually the time when people with allergies suffer the most. Springtime allergies can take a toll on both adults and children, and can put a damper on an otherwise much anticipated change of seasons.
What are allergies?
Allergies are caused when the immune system mistakes a usually harmless substance for something dangerous. The body then produces antibodies which are on the alert for this allergen. When a person is exposed to this allergen, the body produces chemicals, such as histamine, that cause allergy symptoms.
How can you distinguish allergies from a cold?
Allergies and colds have similar symptoms. You can have a runny nose, a cough and congestion. However, they differ in three respects: a fever is common with a cold, but not in those suffering with allergies. Allergy sufferers frequently have itchy eyes, nose, throat, and even the roof of the mouth, but itchiness is not common with colds. Another distinguishing characteristic between colds and allergies is the duration of the symptoms. While a cold generally lasts for three to seven days, allergy symptoms can last an entire season.
In general, what are most people allergic to?
Springtime allergies are often due to tree pollen and in more humid climates, outdoor mold. Grass pollen is a big cause of summer allergies and weed pollen causes fall allergies.
What is the best treatment for allergies?
Over-the-counter antihistamines can be tried for relief, initially. Your health care provider should be consulted if you fail to respond to the use of over-the-counter treatments.
What else can you do?
Allergy symptoms may be reduce by changing household chores or adjusting your routine. Some ideas include:
- Stay indoors on dry, windy days.
- The best time to go outside is after a rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
- Have someone else mow the lawn, pull weeds and take over other gardening chores that stir up allergies.
- After spending time outside, take a shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair and put on clean clothes.
- Wear a face mask if you do outside chores.
- Take over-the-counter antihistamines when high pollen counts are forecast even before your symptoms start.
- Use air conditioning in your home and car.
- Use high-efficiency air filters and change them frequently.
- Clean floors frequently with a vacuum cleaner.
David Clark is community relations coordinator for Patient First, a regional chain of clinics soon to be opening in Towson.