For some people, the arrival of spring means warner weather and sunshine – but for others it means watery, red, itchy eyes, a running nose, sniffling and sneezing. As many as 20% of Canadians suffer from springtime allergies – also known as hayfever – and in Vancouver we’re already seeing an early hint of spring-like weather and a slightly higher pollen count.
As mentioned, common seasonal allergy symptoms include itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, a runny/itchy nose, and sneezing. Canadians don’t always realize that it’s allergies they’re grappling with, oftentimes mistaking the symptoms of that of a common cold or sinus infection, just without the fever and body aches. While allergy season varies across the country, it typically begins in late March, while areas like Ontario and Quebec don’t tend to see an increase in allergies until July. British Columbia, however, is considered to have the worst tree pollen season, which can kick off as early as February and last all the way through to June – and for allergy sufferers that can be a gruelling four months.
Springtime allergies are the result of your immune system thinking that pollen is hazardous to your body; so when you have an allergic response, your body sends histamines into your blood, which results in the symptoms mentioned above. In other words, your immune system is misfiring. These allergies don’t just happen out of the blue, however – they can also be genetic. For example, if a parent or a sibling suffers from springtime allergies, you’re also much more likely to suffer the same fate. Allergies can also occur at any time in life – whether you’re a child, teenager, or adult.
While there’s unfortunately no cure for springtime allergies, there are things Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends trying to help relieve the symptoms and give your immune system a bit of a reprieve.
First, it’s a good idea to know what triggers your allergies. Certain pollens can cause you to have an allergic reaction more than others, and knowing this information can help your physician or allergies provide you with a treatment plan that is specifically designed for you. When pollen counts are high, you should try to stay indoors and make sure you keep all windows closed – it’s also recommended that you avoid drying clothes outside, as you could actually bring in pollens, which may further trigger symptoms. You can monitor your local pollen count via The Weather Network, and you find more information on what these pollen counts mean via HealthLink BC.
Over-the-counter medications like Benadryl, Reactine, Aeris and Allegra are all beneficial in treating symptoms of spring allergies, but be careful, as many of these medications can make you drowsy. If you do decide to take one of these medications, you should avoid driving or operating machinery. For those with allergies that are more severe, your doctor may need to prescribe you with eye drops or nasal sprays. Common sprays used to treat allergies include Nasonex and Omnaris; however, these sprays will need to be used for several days – sometimes weeks – before you’ll begin to notice any improvement. If you’ve tried all of the aforementioned recommendations and are still having trouble combating your symptoms, you might require allergy shots, and may even benefit from seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.