Winter is almost over and trees are budding with the first signs that spring is in the air. A crocus pops its sweet purple plumes through the last ice crystals and we heave a collective sigh of relief that, with the winter chills, the myriad of mucus-producing viruses is finally leaving the building. And then, for many, that first fatal sneeze. Spring, in all her verdant glory, has ushered back in seasonal allergies and the snotty noses and congestion we hoped not to revisit until the fall. For many of us in New York, seasonal allergies aren't just a nuisance, they prevent outdoor recreation, socialization, yard maintenance, and a host of other activities that make summer, well, summer.
But what are seasonal allergies? Why are some affected, while others aren't? And the million-dollar question: what, if anything, can we do to prevent them?
First, it's important to understand that allergies develop when the immune system reacts, often overly so, to environmental factors ranging from pet dander, dust, mold, and pollen to insect bites and food additives. Some people's immune systems simply react more energetically to these factors than others, and, thus, an allergy is born. Common symptoms of an allergic response are sneezing, runny nose, sinus congestion, headache, itchy/watery eyes, and rash (contact dermatitis). Seasonal allergies, often referred to as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, are just that: intense allergic responses that tend to develop during specific seasons, most commonly during times of high pollination, like spring and summer.
Depending on location, spring allergies can begin as early as February and last through the first month of summer. Then, summer allergies take over for the next few months and, if you're one of the unlucky few, fall allergies, replete with a nice sprinkling of early colds and other viruses, make solid misery for many of the last few days before the snow flies again.
As one might expect, climate plays a large role in seasonal allergy specifics and severity. Tropical climates might mean grass, a common seasonal allergen, could pollinate year-round, while rainy areas might see greater mold growth. However, certain allergens consistently rank at the top of the list for spring/summer allergies, and others in the fall.
As aforementioned, the nature and timing of allergens will vary depending on climate; however, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, a few factors consistently determine prevalence.
- Pollens flourish during cool night/warm day seasons and peak during the morning.
- Molds thrive in heat and high humidity.
- Pollen counts skyrocket after rain.
- Windless days might provide some relief, as airborne allergens are less mobile; conversely, warm, windy days mean high pollen counts.
So, how do we help ourselves and our seasonal allergy-affected friends and family? The bad news: allergens are everywhere and moving anywhere other than the surface of the sun or Antarctica - arguably problematic locales for other reasons - won't help. Treatment options, however, are innumerable.
First, do what you can to minimize the culprits:
- Watch mold/pollen counts and avoid outdoor activities when they're at their highest
- Keep windows and doors in your house, office, and car shut during high allergy seasons
- Shower and change clothes following time outdoors
- Wear a mask when working outdoors.
It also might make sense to initially try some over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications. Readily available at most drugstores and supermarkets in a range of options, seasonal allergy medications can do wonders to mitigate the severity of symptoms. If OTC medications prove ineffective, it might be time to see an allergist. Allergists can help you do more than just treat symptoms. They may complete testing to determine which allergens are the most problematic, offer prescription medication options, and initiate immunotherapy, or "allergy shots," if indicated.
For any questions, call or contact Executive Insurance & Financial Services today.