As the mercury continues to climb this spring, people begin working in their yard and frequenting parks all in preparation for a summer full of outdoor fun. But for those who suffer from spring allergies, warmer temperatures often mean enjoying the weather while managing their symptoms.
Allergies (allergic rhinitis) occur when your immune system overreacts to particles in the air that you breathe. As your immune system attacks these particles you may experience common allergy symptoms: sneezing; a runny, itchy nose; nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes, says McFarland Clinic Allergist Jay Brown, MD.
Since many allergy symptoms overlap with those of a viral cold, diagnosing allergies can be difficult without testing, says Dr. Brown. Testing for allergies is simple and can be done by either a blood test or skin test. Longer-lasting symptoms are usually a give-away that you have allergies, not just a cold, adds Dr. Brown. It’s “the cold that never seems to go away.”
People who have allergies are affected during different months and for different lengths of time, says Dr. Brown. Most people don’t notice their spring pollen allergies until they are spending more time outside. For those allergic to trees, symptoms can begin as early as late February to early March and last for a couple months; grass season begins in May or June, also lasting for a couple months and ragweed season begins in Iowa on August 16, lasting about six weeks.
Treatment for seasonal allergies varies depending on the severity of your symptoms.
“Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be effective in treating allergies,” Dr. Brown said.
Common OTC medicines include antihistamines such as Allegra, Zyrtec or Claritin: “If over-the-counter medicines provide no relief of symptoms it is time to see your doctor,” Dr. Brown said.
Working with an allergist can help to determine what you are allergic to and ways you can treat and manage your symptoms. More aggressive treatment, such as allergy shots, is available for those who have tried OTC medicines and prescriptions with no relief.
“There are other simple ways to help manage seasonal allergies,” Dr. Brown said. “Close windows and turn on the air-conditioning; don’t hang clothes or bedding outside to dry – this is an easy way for pollen to get into your home. And for those with more serious pollen allergies, rinse your hair before you go to bed.”
While spring allergies are not life-threatening, not treating them can have some health implications, including your ability to concentrate, quality of sleep and quality of life, says Dr. Brown. They can also be very dangerous to an asthmatic person. If you have questions or concerns about your spring allergy symptoms it is important to talk to your primary care doctor or schedule an appointment directly with an allergist.
Learn more about the McFarland Clinic Allergy Department, located at 1215 Duff Avenue location in Ames, IA. John, Wheeler, MD, will be joining Dr. Brown and his colleague Dr. Edward Nassif in the McFarland Clinic Allergy Department in July 2011.
To learn more about spring allergies and related topics, check out the following learning centers and articles on our online health library: