How to Ease Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal Allergy Relief
Before we can ease seasonal allergy symptoms we first need to know what causes them. Seasonal allergies are also referred to as hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Seasonal allergy symptoms occur during certain times of the year, or certain seasons. Your allergies may be worse in spring when trees and grasses are starting to seed. Your allergies may be worse in the summer when ragweed and pollen are highest. Your allergies may be worse in the fall when leaves land on the ground and trap moisture leading to high mold spores. OR your allergies could be like mine and fall into ALL of the seasons, with some worse than others.
When a person is in contact with an allergen the immune system releases chemicals, including histamine, into the bloodstream in an attempt to defend against that allergen. The release of the chemicals causes allergy symptoms. The allergy symptoms can mimic those of a cold and it can often be hard to differentiate between the two. However, if you develop cold symptoms every year around the same time chances are good it’s actually a seasonal allergy.
Seasonal allergy symptoms can vary in severity depending on a person’s exposure to the allergen and on a person’s immune system’s response to the allergen. Often the symptoms are sneezing, coughing, itchy nose and throat, congestion, runny nose and itchy or watery eyes. Itchy, watery eyes could turn into allergic conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the eyes. Wheezing and shortness of breath may also be present if the allergy has turned into asthma.
There is no cure for seasonal allergies but it is possible to relieve the symptoms. The first and best method of minimizing allergy symptoms is to remove the source of the allergen or minimize exposure to it. During allergy season keep windows closed, use an air conditioner if possible, and stay indoors when pollen counts are high. A pollen count measures how much pollen is in the air to help people with seasonal allergies determine how bad symptoms will be. Pollen counts are usually higher in the morning and on warm, dry, breezy days. Many people plan outdoor activities around their local pollen count. A local pollen count can usually be found on your local news website under the weather heading. If you are unable to stay inside during high pollen count times you can still reduce symptoms by washing your hands and face often and by changing clothes and taking a shower once you will stay inside. Washing and changing will remove the allergen from your body. Medicines can also be prescribed or taken over the counter to minimize symptoms. A medicine containing anti-histamine is best since the symptoms are caused largely in part to the histamine released by your immune system. Decongestants and steroid based nose sprays are other options for treating seasonal allergy symptoms. If symptoms cannot be managed your doctor may recommend regular allergy shots, also called immunotherapy. The allergy shots contain a small dose of your allergen that is steadily increased over time so you can build immunity to it. The idea is to desensitize you to your specific allergens, not to cure you of them.
A Funny Song About Allergies!
I have seasonal allergies and indoor allergies. I am allergic to just about everything on Earth; grass, trees, flowers, mold, cats dogs, horses, pigs, roaches, dust, dairy, and other less common things. Wow – right? And yes, I said roaches. I went for an allergy test several years back. The test consisted of 30 spikes tipped with different allergens that just barely punctured the skin on my arms. The doctor and nurse were very shocked that I had an allergic reaction, a raised, red bump, where all 30 spikes entered my skin. To make things easier the doctor only noted my strongest reactions – one of them being the roach. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been around roaches so that doesn’t mean much to me. But I love animals and the outdoors. So how do I cope? Well, I suck up the symptoms as much as I can, I take allergy medicine all year long, I minimize my exposure to my worst allergens, and I treat the symptoms as I get them.
When I have to mow the lawn I wear goggles to cover my eyes and I wear a mask so I don’t breathe in the pollen and grass seeds. I take half a dose of Children’s Benadryl after mowing to combat the release of extra histamines on top of the allergy pill I took for the day. I also immediately bag up my mowing clothes and shower to remove the allergen from my person. I make sure to wash my eyebrows and eyelashes with baby shampoo to remove any lingering pollen. A little personal secret - after my shower I apply under eye moisturizer to the skin around my eyes since it doesn’t produce its own moisture. The baby shampoo is gentle but it’s still meant to clean and that could leave the skin around your eyes a little dry or irritated. I use this same method when raking leaves because fall is my worst allergy season.
When dealing with animals I just can’t help myself. I still have to cuddle with them, pet them, and play with them. It’s a sad state really. My sneezing scares away the cats and my coughing makes the dogs bark. To minimize the symptoms of pet allergies I wash my hands every single time I interact with the pet. While I am playing with, holding, or petting the pet I DO NOT touch my face until I’ve washed. If I find I am covered in pet hair I change immediately. Believe it or not, I actually have a special towel I place on my lap for my cat to sit on while I hold him. I wash the towel frequently and it saves me from changing my clothes 5 times a day. I keep my pets well brushed so shedding is kept to a minimum. My kids enjoy this chore so I push it off on them. I also do not let my pets in my bedroom. Cats and dogs love pillows and the last thing an allergy sufferer needs is to sleep on a pillow covered in his or her allergen!
I keep my house dusted, usually courtesy of one of my family members since dusting bothers me really bad. It’s amazing how much kids love feather dusters. I also use an indoor HEPA filter all year. I have one on my heater that works through the housing vents and I have a portable one that travels the house with me. I rarely open the windows to my house, but when I do I leave the portable air filter by the window to clean the air as it comes in. During my worst allergy season I run the portable air filter next to my bed at night to help me sleep without congestion and constant sneezing.
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When the congestion and raw eyes do get to be too much I run a wash rag under very hot water, wring it out, and lay it across my sinuses and eyes. The heat usually breaks up some of the congestion and it feels great to my sore eyes.
To deal with coughing and shortness of breath during my worst allergy season I move my exercise indoors and I drink an excess of water. The water helps wash down the congestion and the cool drink soothes my sore throat. I use throat lozenges or cough drops to relieve coughing and sore throat. I also have an inhaler that calms the wheezing from my allergies if I should let myself get too worked up while outside.
Some seasons are worse than others from year to year depending on the weather. Usually I can relieve my symptoms easily enough that my allergies don’t dictate my life. For those years that my allergies are out of control and I can’t find relief on my own I visit my doctor begging for something, anything to help me out. She then offers me a shot that lasts for about 3 months, just long enough to get me through the season. It’s a steroid so I cannot take it year after year. Thankfully I only ever need it every 3 or 4 years.
Allergies are an inconvenience for many people but the symptoms can be relieved. The days and nights of suffering may seem endless but remember a seasonal allergy is just that – seasonal. So minimize exposure, relieve symptoms, and wait for the next season to start.
Thank you for taking the time to read. If you have ideas or methods for relieving allergy symptoms please leave them in the comments below to help other sufferers. Your feedback is encouraged!
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