Spring is already launching its allergy attacks, making many of us feel miserable. If you suffer every spring, take the True-False quiz below to find out how much you know. Then try the prevention and treatment tips for a more pleasant spring this year.
1.The chief cause of spring allergies is pollen.
True, pollen is a very fine powder that flowers, trees, grasses and weeds produce each spring. Pollen’s role is to fertilize other plants of the same species. When some people breathe in pollen, their immune system mistakenly thinks it is harmful and produces chemicals to fight it. This allergic reaction – also called hay fever – can make you feel miserable. Plants fertilized by insects, like roses, cherry and pear trees, usually don’t cause allergic reactions.
2.Allergy symptoms include headaches, muscle aches and sleepiness.
False. The most common spring allergy symptoms are sneezing, a stuffy nose and itchy, watery eyes. Other symptoms include a runny nose, scratchy throat, cough, sinus pressure causing facial pain, swelling around the eyes and a decreased sense of taste or smell. People with asthma often see increased reactions when pollen counts are high.
3.The best medicine for allergies is aspirin.
False. Allergy medicines stop your immune system from producing the pollen-fighting chemical produced by your body called histamine. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as Zyrtec or Benadryl may help. If you take other medications, ask your doctor if antihistamines are safe for you to take. Decongestants such as Sudafed or Afrin nasal spray can help reduce nasal stuffiness so you can breathe better.
4.Allergy shots have to keep getting stronger to reduce symptoms.
True. For people who cannot get relief from medications, allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT) may be the next step. The amount of the allergen in the shot gradually increases over time to modify your immune system’s response to it. This is called immunotherapy and helps reduce your symptoms. Some people get complete relief after one to three years of the shots, other people must keep taking them. Allergy shots bring relief for about 85 percent of nasal symptoms, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
5.A new immunotherapy method can treat some allergies without shots.
True. It is called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). The patient takes a small dose of an allergen under the tongue. This exposure to allergens improves your tolerance to pollen and reduces symptoms. SLIT is fairly safe and effective for the treatment of nasal allergies and asthma. SLIT tablets are currently available for grass and ragweed allergies. You must take the tablets daily before and during allergy season. Talk to an allergist about this method.
6.Some people have pollen allergies all year.
True. Other pollens such as ragweed and other weeds can produce allergy symptoms as early as August and continue through November.
7.Pollen allergies affect more children than adults.
True. About 40 percent of American children are bothered by allergies; less than 30 percent of adults are affected.
8.Pollen allergies go away as one ages.
False. Once it has developed, usually during childhood, a pollen allergy in not likely to go away.
9.There’s nothing that can stop allergy symptoms.
False. Although you cannot “cure” a pollen allergy, there are effective medications – both over-the-counter and prescriptions and allergy shots – that can bring symptom relief for most people. Taking your medicine before symptoms start will help keep symptoms from starting, especially on high pollen-count days.
10.Lifestyle changes can help you feel better during the worst of the spring allergy season.
True. Try these treatment tips:
- Consult an allergy specialist – You may be referred to an allergist – a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies. He or she may use a skin prick test to find out what is causing your symptoms. The allergist pricks your skin and inserts a tiny amount of various types of substances. If you are allergic to any of these, your skin will swell, itch and become red at the site within 15-20 minutes.
- Stay inside, especially on windy days when pollen can travel far and wide. Keep doors and windows shut when pollen counts are high. Find a reliable pollen-count website or weather channel and check it before you plan outdoor activities. You may find it more comfortable to be outside on rainy or high-humidity days.
- Delegate the gardening or yard work to someone else when pollen counts are high.
- Wear a dust mask if you must be outside, especially during peak pollen season.
- Avoid all allergens – Make a plan to avoid everything your allergist identified as something to which you are allergic. This may include lifestyle changes (getting rid of pets) or expensive updates (pulling up your carpet and installing hardwood floors).
- Try home remedies. Healthline says these remedies help reduce symptoms for some people:
- Flush pollen from your nose with a squeeze bottle of warm saline solution twice a day or use a neti pot
- After being outside, remove and wash your clothes; take a shower and wash (or at least rinse) your hair
- Stop the transfer of pollen from outside into your home, especially sleeping areas. Hair attracts pollen so cover your head outdoors; wear sunglasses to help keep pollen out of your eyes
- Wash bedding at least every week in hot soapy water; change pillow cases frequently if you cannot wash your hair after being outdoors
- If your pets have been outside don’t let them into your bedroom
- Don’t use a clothesline; use a clothes dryer and keep the lint filter clean
- Use air conditioning in cars and homes
- Vacuum regularly; use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your vacuum; hardwood floors are easier to keep free of pollen
- Use HEPA filters in your furnace/air system’s return air vents
- Try a dehumidifier when you sleep
- Try herbs such as butterbur (for nasal allergies), spirulina or nettle leaf; check with your doctor first
- Drink plenty of water to help thin mucus secretions, so they are easier to clear, and reduce a dry, scratchy throat