The beauty of the earth in spring. Trees awaken from their winter hibernation to sprout buds of pink and white, adorning yards, countrysides and highway medians, and bringing smiles to winter-weary faces. But are the bright blooms causing your allergy miseries? Although these beauties signal the advent of spring, they are not likely the ones causing your symptoms. Flowering pollen is carried from tree to tree by insects like bees. In contrast, it’s the beastly green trees such as maple, birch, oak and pine that produce the most pollen, which is then carried by the wind, spewing clouds of yellow and green that blanket the earth, buildings and cars -and your eyes, throat, nose and sinuses. Allergies: The word itself can strike fear into the hearts of susceptible individuals. Allergies are responsible for symptoms from simple watery eyes and sneezing to asthma attacks and even life threatening anaphylaxis, which often stems from the stings of the very insects assisting in the pollination process.
Now I can’t deliver such distressing information without offering suggestions for some semblance of relief. Although the best hope for effecting long term relief from your allergies is allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots), there are a few things you can do to reduce the assault of pollens on your immune system. Beginning even in late winter, take an antihistamine on a daily basis. Diphenhydramine (generic Benadryl) is a popular antihistamine and a good medication, but may not be the best choice for regular use. The effects of the drug only last about six hours and it is very sedating for most people, making it difficult to go about any activities, such as driving, that require alertness. There are several other over the counter products that work very well and are less sedating. Loratidine (generic Claritin), cetirizine (generic Zyrtec), and fexophenadine (generic Allegra) are all good medications and come in 24 hour formulas, providing all day relief. Decongestants, such as pseudoepedrine (generic Sudafed) and phenylephrine can help with nasal congestion and sinus pressure and headaches. Saline nasal sprays and sinus washes (NetiPots) can loosen and remove the mucus clogging your sinuses. Antihistamine eye drops and antihistamine and decongestant nasal sprays are also available.
Avoid outside activities in the early and mid morning, as this is when pollen counts are the highest. If you must cut grass or be outside for extended periods, wear surgical masks, available in pharmacies. Keep doors and windows closed and run air conditioners in your home and cars. (Now is not the time to open your sun roof!) Remove shoes before you come in the house. Shower immediately after returning from the outside, and especially before you go to bed. Pollen can cling to fabric so vacuum carpets, furniture and drapes with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtered vacuum cleaner. HEPA air cleaners are also available in various sizes of free standing models as well as whole house filters, and not a bad idea to run at any time. Launder clothing after being outside and launder bed clothes frequently. If you have pets, bathe them often during pollen seasons. Wash your hands after contact with your pets.
I can’t promise you a completely symptom free season if you follow these few suggestions, but I believe they will help you control the beasts of the air, and maybe even give you a renewed appreciation for the breathtaking foliage! Happy Spring!