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Surviving—aaa-choo!—Spring Allergy Season (Gesundheit)

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What says “spring” to you? Easter? Spring break? The smell of the leather and the smack of the ball in a broken-in baseball glove? The roar of lawn mowers and snick-snick of hedge trimmers emerging from a long winter garage?

Or, perhaps, the onset of sneezing, watery eyes, and the other symptoms of spring allergies?

If you said “allergies,” you’re far from alone. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies; in fact, allergies are the sixth-leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. And allergies can be especially bad in the spring, when two major types of allergens—tree pollen and mold spores—wreak havoc.

Say hey to hay fever

Trees produce pollen cells that are carried on the breeze and right into your nostrils—and if you’re allergic, that’s bad news. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) lists 11 types of trees that are the major spring hay fever culprits:

  • Ash
  • Birch
  • Cypress
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Poplar
  • Sycamore
  • Walnut
  • Western red cedar

If you’re allergic, you’re probably in for sneezing, itching, and congestion when these trees are releasing pollen. You may find some relief on cloudy or rainy days—but when it’s sunny and warm, especially when it’s windy, you may be miserable.

When the mold gets bold

That would be spring, also. As trees release pollen, mold releases spores—seeds that are carried on the wind and can cause the same kinds of allergic reactions. Some of the most common molds that cause hay fever are alternaria, which typically grows on plants, wood, and grasses; cladosporium, often found anywhere moisture is present, including damp walls and leaky pipes; and hormodendrum, a soil fungus that thrives in wet weather.

Surviving the season

Can you get relief from spring allergies? Perhaps. A few suggestions that can help:

  • Keep windows and doors closed
  • Install allergy filters on your furnace and air conditioning units
  • Wash your clothes and shower after you’ve been exposed to pollen or spores
  • Consider waiting to do yard work or exercise outside on days when pollen counts are low

You might also try nasal irrigation—that is, rinsing your nasal passages with salty water—with a neti pot or squeeze bottle. You can make your own saline mix with iodine-free salt (three heaping teaspoons) and baking soda (one rounded teaspoon) per cup of distilled or boiled water. It’s important to use distilled or boiled water (after it’s returned to room temperature) to help prevent infection.

There are also pharmaceutical options that may help you: antihistamines like Benadryl and Claritin, decongestants like Afrin and Actifed, nasal corticosteroid sprays like Flonase and Nasonex—and even allergy shots. Depending on the approach, you may get some relief quickly. But some of these allergy-fighting tactics can take days, weeks even months or years before you fully realize the results.

Your best bet: Ask your Hancock Health physician if any of these or other treatments may be right for you. We’re here to help you make it through the season—and, hopefully, get those allergies under control for good.

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