Tips for Allergy Season Coniston
Tips for Allergy Season
Spring and the approach of summer is hard on Lisa Gottfried of Freeport, Ill. The pollen that fills the air makes her sneeze, and her itchy, watery eyes make her miserable. She takes over-the-counter allergy medication, which offers her some relief. Like many allergy sufferers, she wants to be outdoors, but she pays the price for it.
“My allergies only really kicked into gear in the last few years, but they are real,” Gottfried said. “Some of it did start when I got my dog a few years ago, but I’m not getting rid of the dog — I’m happy, but I’m miserable.”
Many people equate spring/summer with allergies. The tissue box is always within reach and the end of spring does not mean the end of discomfort, it becomes a shift in symptoms. Each season has a culprit for allergies. For spring, it is the pollen in the air, grasses that spring up and moulds that return after melted snow.
Summer may mean a leveling off of budding trees. As conditions become more dry, it is the higher humidity that breeds mould that grows on grass and leaves. Summer becomes about survival, and Dr. Tim Jessen, an asthma and allergy specialist, finds business picking up at his clinic office.
Jessen conducted a session on health-related issues last week at the Burchard Hills Clinic in Freeport. The topic was called “Don’t Hide From Your Allergies.”
Jessen spoke to a room filled with allergy sufferers who came to hear from an expert on how to identify allergies and how to treat the symptoms. Jessen said a person doesn’t have to have a runny nose or watery eyes to be an allergy sufferer, and the symptoms may come in many forms, from headaches to breathing problems and even an inability to sleep well.
Most seasonal allergies are the result of airborne pollens and particles invading the air passages in the body. While some allergy relief is within reach of the pharmacy shelves, other people may need inhalers, prescription medication and even allergy shots.
“Most of us deal with respiratory allergies,” Jessen said. “We breathe in deposited materials that settle in our noses, eyes and lungs.
“Pollen has much to do with problems this time of year and when the trees finish up, the grasses start and grass pollinates from mid-May to mid-July and then we get a couple of weeks off and then ragweed starts and lasts until the end of September, or the first frost,” Jessen said.
Common allergy causes
- Pollen: This comes from grasses and flowers. Pollen is wind-borne and carried by insects.
- Mould: This is a living organism and generally out numbers people. It starts when the snow melts and does not quit until there is snow cover in the winter.
- Dust: Dust is made up of mould spores and human dander and becomes toxic to those allergic. The part of dust that is relevant is dust mites, which live in all homes. Basically what is breathed is the dust mite dropping, which is what causes the allergy.
- Animals: There is no such thing as an allergy-free animal. All animals have dander, and it is the dander that causes the allergies.
How to know if it is an allergy
“Allergies cause symptoms,” Jessen said. “The nose runs or is stuffy, the eyes water and itch, and basically, this is a symptom of being allergic to something.”
There are many over-the-counter medications on the market that treat the symptoms. Jessen said taking the medication on a regular basis offers protection. However, many people wait until they are miserable to take something and he said it often takes up to 45 minutes to begin working, once taken.
There are two ways to test for allergies — traditional skin tests and blood tests. Skin tests are done by placing extracts taken from raw materials directly on the skin to find the allergy. Most often the results are immediate, which is why skin tests are still widely used. Blood tests can also be taken, but lab results take time and are often more expensive.
Treatments vary, but most of the time, the best way to avoid an allergy reaction is to avoid the culprit for the allergy. If pollen is a problem, the best thing to do is keep the doors and windows closed and use air conditioning. Also use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity, which can produce mould in the home.
Medications are mostly antihistamines, which are blockers for the histamine that causes the allergy. Topical creams and sprays can also be effective for skin conditions.
Since most allergens are breathed directly through the nose, Jessen recommends doing a nasal wash on a regular basis to cleanse the nose. This can be done once or twice a day, and a good saline solution can be used.
“Allergies are real for many, and if the problem becomes serious, I recommend seeing a doctor, which can then diagnose and treat directly,” Jessen said.
By the numbers
20 percent of allergy sufferers need shots
Surviving the season
- Wear a pollen mask when outdoors for a long period of time.
- Keep door and windows closed during heavy pollen counts.
- Change and clean air conditioner filters monthly.
- Be proactive — wash bedding on a regular basis and use a mattress covering to prevent the invasion of dust mites.
- Remove pet dander and keep pets off the bed.
- Vacuum often.
- Keep car windows closed when traveling.
- Shower after spending time outdoors.
The Journal-Standardauthor: Jane Lethlean