By: Angelina Lombardi, MD
As winter fades and days become longer and warmer, many people have begun to plan outdoor activities such as gardening, home projects, picnics, sports, and trips. Although spring is a wonderful time of year for most individuals, it can be a nightmare for those who suffer from allergic diseases. Tree and grass pollen are the predominant allergens during the spring season and for the person with allergic disease can cause troublesome symptoms such as: sneezing, watery itchy eyes, runny nose, cough, wheezing, nasal congestion, and rashes. Allergy suffers can oftentimes come to dread the onset of the spring season. If you are one of these individuals, donÕt despair; there are several measures you can take to help you enjoy many, if not all spring outdoor activities.
1. Protect yourself from pollen:
Try to remain indoors during peak pollen periods. This usually occurs in the early morning hours. It is always wise to engage in outdoor activities later in the afternoon. When outdoors gardening or mowing, wear protective goggles and a mask. Do not allow allergic family members to remain outdoor when nearby lawns are being mowed. Keep windows closed at all times Ð Òfresh airÓ contains pollen! Change heating and air conditioner filters every 1 to 3 months depending upon the type of filter purchased.
2. Clean up after pollen exposure:
After outdoor activities be sure to remove all clothing worn outdoors, shower and wash your hair to rid yourself from pollen collected outdoors. Do not go to bed without bathing after spending time outdoors Ð you will be sleeping with pollen! For those who prefer, it is also a good idea to rinse your sinuses and nasal passages with saline solution in order to rid your mucus membranes of pollen.
3. Be proactive with your medications:
It is always best to ÒprimeÓ yourself with your medications prior to the pollen season. Typically, the first tree pollens appear in early March in the state of South Carolina. If you are allergic to spring pollens; it is a good idea to being taking antihistamines and other allergy medications in mid-February so as to have therapeutic levels in your system when pollen does appear. Be sure to use eye drops and nasal sprays prior to spending time outdoors if you are not using these regularly. For those with asthma, use rescue inhalers prior to outdoor activity particularly if you have exercise-induced asthma or asthma which is triggered by outdoor allergens. Always remember to take routine medications that are prescribed by your Allergist.
4. Consider immunotherapy:
If you have practiced all of the above measures and are still symptomatic or if you simply do not want to take medications, then you may want to consider immunotherapy (allergy injections). Basically, your Allergist will test you in order to determine exactly which allergens are causing your symptoms. He/she will then prescribe an extract or extracts which contain those allergens in which you are sensitive. Over a period of several months, you will receive regular, increasing doses of these allergens which will, in turn, stimulate your immune system to build up its own defense mechanism against these allergens. Immunotherapy is generally very effective in controlling symptoms and is usually safe when administered under the direct supervision of your Allergist. For more information regarding this type of treatment, contact your local Allergist.