While allergies can certainly occur year-round, the springtime is commonly when allergy problems tend to pop up in higher rates. When your body detects an allergen, it releases chemicals (such as histamine.) The release of these chemicals is what triggers you to develop things like nasal congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, as well as itchy, red and watery eyes. As many as 30% of Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies, and in some individuals those allergies can be so severe that it can affect things like productivity (for example, at work or at school), sleep, and can even increase the risk of developing a respiratory infection. Below you will find some tips on what you can do to prevent spring allergies, as well as different tips on what you can do to relieve the symptoms of spring allergies if you do happen to be impacted by them.
Spring allergies are most commonly caused by a fine powder known as pollen, which is produced by things like flowers, trees and grass. Because pollen levels are usually at their highest in the mornings, you should time any time you plan on spending outdoors to later in the day. While it may not be ideal, it’s also better to get out when the weather forecast calls for rain, as rain is what washes pollen out of the air and therefore decreases your allergy symptoms. You should also avoid being outside during dry and windy conditions, as these conditions can increase pollen levels. If you do plan on being outdoors during high pollen levels, you can take further measures to protect yourself, such as wearing a mask, while sunglasses can also help protect the eyes. One other common cause of spring allergies are insects. Bees, in particular. Individuals can be severely allergic to bee stings and could develop a reaction known as anaphylaxis, which is considered to be life-threatening. Not everyone is allergic to bees, however, but the stings themselves can be especially painful. To avoid getting stung by a bee or bitten by other insects, you should avoid wearing perfumes or other scented products when outdoors during warm, sunny weather, as well as wear loose, long-sleeved clothing and closed-toe shoes. When going indoors after being exposed to outdoor pollen, that also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re 100% free from it or won’t develop an allergic reaction, as pollen can cling to your clothing, hair, and even skin, so it’s a good idea to take a shower as well as change your clothes if you find that you’re susceptible to spring allergies.
As for treating spring allergies, people will most commonly use over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines. Antihistamines work by blocking the histamine receptors so that the allergen you are exposed to doesn’t trigger an allergic response or reduces the symptoms of an allergic response that has already developed. Other medications, such as corticosteroid nasal sprays, are also prescribed to help relieve symptoms of allergies, but they need to be used regularly and it may take a few weeks before you notice any improvement in your symptoms. For individuals who aren’t keen on the idea of taking medication on a regular basis, you can also try something called immunotherapy (allergy shots.) Immunotherapy is done by injecting you with a small amount of allergens in effort to help your body build up tolerance to them. However, it doesn’t happen overnight, as immunotherapy can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years for it to be effective and for you to be allergy-free. In some cases, individuals can also develop an allergic reaction as a result of getting these allergy shots, so it’s always important to weight the risks and benefits with your physician before jumping into it.
If you have had a severe allergic reaction in the past, such as anaphylaxis, it’s recommended that you carry around an epinephrine auto-injector. Epinephrine can counteract the effects of a severe allergic reaction and can ultimately be life-saving. It’s also important to remember to call 911 in the event that you have to use your epinephrine auto-injector so that you can be properly monitored by medical personnel to ensure you do not have any further allergic response.
If you’re unsure what you are allergic to but want to find out, your doctor can refer you to see an allergist. An allergist will be able to do more in-depth testing, including blood tests, to determine exactly what your allergies are as well as provide you information on how to better combat them and recommend allergy medication, if necessary.