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What's Going Around: Spring Allergies

Spring is here and so are allergies thanks to our mild winter. Millions of allergic Americans are bracing themselves for sneezes and watery eyes but you don't have to suffer.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Melody McSweeney March 27, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Someone needs to upgrade the allergy symptoms that appear every year. They never mention that many people simply can't tolerate antihistamines - they act like an anphetamine on some people - not good. The other symptom that is common among those of us who suffer is fatigue - extreme exhaustion that makes you just want to pull the covers over your head - extreme fatigue that causes your emotions to just run the gamut of highs and lows. IF the professionals would mention these additional symptoms perhaps people whould recognize them for what they are and learn to live with them, and stop thinking they're going nuts!
Needaname March 28, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Buy yourself a Neti-Potty. I can not tolerate the OTC medications and have found some relief with rinsing my nose a couple of times a day AND splashing water on my eyes. This year has been been total misery for me - and in the past I have been able to tolerate the spring with relatively NO issues.
Needaname March 28, 2012 at 11:27 AM
.... and I am glad the previous poster mentioned the exhaustion and depression - I really thought I was going through menopause again.

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