If you suffer from seasonal allergies, then you know how miserable the spring and summer months can be. From sneezing and coughing to itchy eyes and a sore throat, the great outdoors can cause some serious disruptions in your life. And while you can’t do anything to control the elements outside, you can begin your allergy preparation now before the warm weather arrives.
Is there such a thing as allergy season?
You’ve probably heard allergies referred to as being part of a season. But what does that really mean? Dr. Susan Schuval, a pediatric allergist and immunologist at Stony Brook Medicine says most patients have a particular “allergy season” during which time their symptoms are the worst.
Allergic individuals may suffer from nasal and/or ocular symptoms consisting of a runny nose; nasal congestion; sneezing; postnasal drip; and red, watery, itchy eyes. That’s why she recommends seeing an allergist, starting medications prior to or at the start of the season and practicing allergen-avoidance measures in order to reduce your symptoms.
Dr. Clifford Bassett, the founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and Flonase Allergy Relief spokesperson, says the beginning of allergy season depends on where you live and what your allergy triggers are. However, he does suggest that one influential factor is the severity of winter, because a warmer and/or wet winter may lead to an early spring.
What you need to know before your allergy season hits
To tackle symptoms before they hit, you need to begin your allergy regimen well before warm weather arrives, Bassett says. That’s why he suggests being proactive and beginning your treatment regimen before allergy season kicks in.
By using specific treatments before allergy season, Bassett says you can prevent the inflammation that causes your allergies from even starting. He recommends starting your over-the-counter allergy medicines, such as nasal steroid sprays, earlier, before the onslaught of seasonal pollen makes their way into your eyes and nasal passages.
Nasal sprays act on multiple inflammatory substances and address common symptoms, including nasal congestion, itchy eyes, watery eyes, runny and itchy nose and sneezing. “Since they work right in your nose to help block your allergic reaction right at the source, nasal steroid sprays can provide 24-hour symptom relief as long as you use them once a day every day during allergy season,” Bassett explains.
The best advice Schuval gives patients is to become knowledgeable about their allergic triggers. She recommends allergy testing to help identify your particular allergens and to be able to identify the time period for which treatment is needed.
“This information allows patients to start taking medication at the start of their allergy season, which usually is more effective in controlling symptoms and preventing complications,” she adds. There are many OTC allergy medications she recommends, including antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops.
How to develop a game plan for allergy season
In sports, the best offense is a great defense, right? The same can be said about allergies. That’s why Bassett believes awareness is a key part of managing your allergies.
He encourages his patients to keep tabs on what triggers their symptoms and then work on how to avoid and/or modify them. “Allergy sufferers should analyze their symptoms from the prior year to develop a game plan for the coming season,” he explains.
For example, if you have a history of itchy or watering eyes, he may advise wearing sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat outdoors in addition to using an OTC allergy medication.
Schuval suggests that if you have pollen allergies, you should keep the windows closed in your home and car to keep the pollen from blowing in. She also suggests wearing hats and sunglasses to keep pollen out of the face. And showering after extended periods of time outdoors will remove pollen from the hair and scalp. Be aware of dogs and cats that may track pollen into the house.
And when it comes to tracking the conditions outside, Bassett advises patients to regularly check the Weather Channel’s Allergy Tracker for an idea of what to look out for that week.
This tool provides insight into the amount of tree, grass and ragweed pollen in the air as well temperature, humidity and precipitation. And yes, those weather factors do matter and he says you should pay attention to them. For example, heavy precipitation can reduce local pollen levels. Alternatively, clear, warm and windy days are often associated with higher pollen levels.
So take this information and use it to prepare for the upcoming allergy season — your eyes and nasal passages will thank you.