Achoo!! Usually the first sign that spring is on its way. If you’re one of the between 10% and 30% of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, you don’t necessarily need to suffer
Spring is sprung, the grass is ris. I wonder where the allergy is…?
If you’re prone to seasonal allergies, you may find that you suddenly have a runny nose or itchy eyes as the weather warms up. Once allergy triggers enter your body, your immune system starts the fight to get rid of them and, Bingo!, seasonal allergies!
Knowing the triggers is the first step to possibly avoiding them and treating them correctly.
Mould that’s been happily growing in the soil, decaying vegetation and plants throughout the winter, start releasing spores into the air as the weather gets warmer, The hotter and more humid the environment, the more mould spores there will be.
Pollen is the obvious one. Once spring arrives, plants, flowers and trees start producing pollen for fertilisation. Interestingly, plants that have pollen carried by insects don’t usually cause allergy symptoms. It’s those powdery pollens that get blown into the air that are the offenders. The hotter and windier it is, the more of these types of pollen will be everywhere.
We don’t normally think of pollen in relation to grass, but of course, grass needs pollen to grow and spread. Fine-grained grass pollen is more likely to trigger allergies towards the latter part of spring and early summer. Once again, it’s the wind that not only activates these, but also carries them through the air.
What to do?
For some, seasonal allergies are vaguely annoying, but for others the symptoms can be quite debilitating, in which case it’s a good idea to visit an allergy specialist – ask your GP for a referral.
- A very simple blood or skin test can screen for all sorts of allergens. Even if your symptoms aren’t that extreme, it may be useful to know whether you’re allergic to anything in particular so that you can try to avoid it.
- Take note to see whether there’s any pattern to the onset of your allergies and nip them in the bud (no pun intended!) by starting over-the-counter medication at least two weeks before allergy season starts – ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend an antihistamine, decongestant, nasal spray and/or eye drops, as well as topical creams for itchy, dry skin. Do exercise caution, though, with self-medicating – and rather see a doctor if you find yourself relying on these medications year after year.
- Even if you’ve missed the boat for prevention, these treatments can still alleviate symptoms.
Can you avoid the triggers?
- Now’s the time for a good clean. Vacuum often – not only floors and carpets, but also beds, bedding and furniture. A vaccuum cleaner with a HEPA filter ensures allergens are sucked up and not chucked back into the air. If you or your family are prone to dust mites or animal dander allergy, this is especially important. Find a cleaner that has an animal hair function too.
- Air matresses and bedding in sunshine as UV kills mites.
- If you have a home air conditioner, make sure you change or clean the filters often.
- Get rid of all mould in the bathroom and kitchen (an eco- and family friendly option, is making a solution of 1 litre of water, 1 cup of white vinegar mixed with 2 tablespoons of borax, or use a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, available at pharmacies). Check for leaks – mould may well be accumulating where you can’t see it.
If you absolutely hate mowing the lawn or weeding, this is your perfect excuse to get out of all those outdoor chores! Limit the time you spend outside and, if you’ve been out for a while, change your clothes when you come indoors. Always shower before bed to remove any stubborn particles. Some weather reports include a pollen count – check these and try to stay indoors when the pollen count is particularly high. The same applies for particularly windy days, when the amount of pollen flying around is considerably higher.
Even though you may not be allergic to dogs or cats, remember that grass and pollen sticks to your beloved pets’ fur, so this may be a good time to keep them out of the bedroom, at least. Get someone who doesn’t suffer from allergies to brush them regularly.
While you’re keeping the animals out – shut your doors and windows as well. Investing in an air purifier will help to keep at least the interior of your home as allergen-free as possible.
Why? Fatigue is a very real symptom of allergies, so make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Keep your hands to yourself
It’s awfully tempting to rub those itchy eyes, but don’t! Rubbing your nose or eyes will make the symptoms worse, and may even cause a cold.
If your throat is affected, gargle with salt water to ease the symptoms.
Rinse your sinuses
Nasal irrigation is very helpful in reducing secondary infection as it flushes the sinuses of mucus and debris. You can buy a saline solution at your pharmacy, and use a syringe/neti pot to infuse it into your nostrils.
Or make your own sodabic solution: In a clean container, add one cup of distilled water or boiled and cooled tap water. Add half a teaspoon of sea salt and half a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate to the water.
Use once a day to keep your nasal passages clear of all the lurgies.
Smoke, even second-hand smoke from both cigarettes and wood-burning fireplaces, can aggravate symptoms. Fumes from some perfumes can have the same effect, intensifying inflamed eyes, noses and throats.
A study published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found a significant reduction in seasonal allergy symptoms for those who were treated with acupuncture three times a week – why not give it a try?
Take the shot!
When all else fails and your allergies are seriously affecting your life, chat to your doctor about allergy shots. These shots contain small amounts of the allergen to which you are sensitive. Over time, you expose your body to greater amounts of the allergen and hopefully, become desensitised and increase your tolerance, so reducing the symptoms. The only downside is that this is a long-term commitment, having weekly shots for up to three years.
The good news is that spring doesn’t last forever and, if you get in touch with what’s causing your allergies this year, you may suffer less – or even avoid them – next year!