For many people, as spring arrived on Monday, March 20, it brought feelings of renewal, new beginnings, budding leaves, blooming flowers, and – yes – those dreadful allergies.
Except for this year, experts say allergy season actually arrived earlier than expected and will only intensify. That’s primarily due to the wet, rainy weather Southern California is experiencing, resulting in more vegetation and consequently – more pollen.
“It appears that more people are already struggling with their allergies,” said Dr. Salima Thobani, an allergy, asthma and immunology physician with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better, mainly due to the weather conditions we’ve experienced that have resulted in more pollen in the air.”
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. Additionally, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.
With the arrival of spring, Dr. Thobani noted allergies are likely to increase as the weather gets warmer and drier. That’s because trees, grasses and weeds will release tiny grains into the air to fertilize other plants, and as we breathe them in, those who have allergies are likely to suffer, she explained.
According to Dr. Thobani, symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Runny, stuffy or itchy nose.
- Itchy, watery eyes.
- Headache and fatigue.
- Sore throat or coughing.
Dr. Thobani notes you can reduce your allergy symptom and exposure to pollen by:
- Limiting the time you spend outside when pollen counts are high (during mid-day and afternoon).
- Rinsing your eyes with cool water or saline eyedrops to remove clinging pollen after you come indoors.
- Keeping your house and car windows closed; using your air conditioning system can be helpful.
- Wearing a pollen mask or dust mask if you need to mow the lawn or when pollen counts are high.
- Taking a shower and changing your clothes after you work or play outside.
- Wearing sunglasses when outdoors to avoid getting pollen in your eyes.
Although there’s no cure for seasonal allergies, Dr. Thobani noted there are several medications, including antihistamines and nasal steroids, which can provide relief and help you breathe a little easier. Over the counter antihistamines that can be effective include loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), or cetirizine (Zyrtec).
The benefit of these medicines is that they cause less drowsiness compared to other common antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine (Chlortrimeton), she noted.
Dr. Thobani advised those with allergies to take their 24-hour allergy medication before going to bed to maximize the effect when they need it the most. “That’s because allergy symptoms – such as a runny nose, weepy eyes and sneezing – typically peak in the morning hours,” she explained.
If you have a history of moderate or more severe allergy symptoms, Dr. Thobani recommended that you start a steroid nasal spray and continue it through the allergy season. These medicines are available over the counter without a need for a prescription, and include fluticasone (Flonase) or triamcinolone (Nasacort).
Kaiser Permanente offers valuable information on how you can better handle your allergies.
About the author: Terry Kanakri is a Senior Media Relations Specialist at Kaiser Permanente, Southern California Region.