Hay fever got you down? For many, spring is simultaneously a breath of fresh air, and a nose full of snot. During spring, plants that have been dormant all winter begin to release pollen in order to generate new life, bringing about a new generation of plants. It is a time of rebirth coming out of winter’s icy grasp, but it puts many of us in a respiratory bind. The pollen released by various plant species can trigger allergic reactions in many individuals. There are dozens of different varieties of plant that might be causing your reaction. Symptoms of these allergic reactions include sneezing, runny noses, itchy eyes, watering eyes, and coughing. While generally far from debilitating, reactions to springtime allergies vary in severity from mildly annoying, to downright miserable.
So, what is the pollen doing to us anyway? Well, when we inhale airborne pollen, our immune systems mistakenly identify the material as being dangerous, and kick into action. In response to this perceived threat, our bodies release a chemical called histamine, which causes the tissue in your nose to become inflamed and swollen. This reaction is similar to the one that the body undergoes when fighting the common cold caused by rhinoviruses. The subsequent canals of snot flowing from your nostrils are the body’s attempt to purge the perceived danger from your respiratory system. When you have springtime allergies, you basically have an overprotective guard dog of an immune system who has mistaken the local mail carrier for a threat, well-intentioned, but annoying and embarrassing.
What are we to do about these allergies? Short of discovering what specific plants cause your allergy and wiping them all out (not at all practical or advisable), there is no cure for springtime allergies. Luckily, several mitigating strategies can make your bouts with springtime allergens more manageable. Before we talk about over-the-counter medications, let’s discuss how you can control your environment.
Monitor the pollen count. Some days, the pollen count will be higher than others, and different times of day tend to influence the pollen count one direction or the other. Generally, the pollen count peaks during the morning hours. It is exacerbated by windy conditions, in which pollen travels more freely and more quickly. Meanwhile, rain will often douse and ground airborne pollen particles, greatly reducing the airborne pollen count. Generally trying to stay indoors during days with high pollen count is advisable. Additionally, though warming temperatures might tempt you to open your windows, keep them shut! Pollen can travel through screen windows, and will happily take up residence in your carpet and your furniture. Keeping your indoor spaces free from pollen will greatly reduce your allergies. Furthermore, make sure to regularly vacuum and clean your indoor spaces. Consider investing in an air purifier; they can make a huge difference.
Pollen will ride your clothing, and your hair into indoor spaces. If you find yourself wrestling with symptoms long after you have come inside, consider changing your clothes and/or taking a shower. This will often help to shake off stubborn pollen particles that are continually offending your guard-dog immune system.
Now, even if you are acting on all of this advice, you might find yourself suffering through some pretty miserable allergic reactions. Check with your doctor beforehand, but after getting their advice there are plenty of over-the-counter medications designed to alleviate symptoms of allergic reactions. Antihistamines will reduce the histamines triggered by the body’s immune system, therefore reducing the swelling of your nasal passages. You might also consider decongestants designed to reduce the production of mucous in the respiratory system. For a less temporary solution, ask your doctor about immunotherapy. While it does not work equally well for everybody, it has been noted to greatly reduce reactions in many individuals.
Hay fever is as unavoidable as the change of seasons, but decisions under your control can shape how pleasant or unpleasant your springtime will be. Start with some of the environmental mitigation strategies, and if problems persist, speak with your doctor about what over-the-counter medications might be best to combat your particular cocktail of seasonal allergies. Don’t let hay fever keep you down!