Spring is here – and while that means longer, warmer days, budding trees and blooming flowers – it also means misery for millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies.
You know the signs: Red itchy eyes,scratchy nose and throat, runny nose and of course sneezing. And no matter how many remedies some people try – they just can’t find relief.
Here are the top 5 reasons why:
1. You’re not taking the right medications:
“If somebody has a cold or sinus infection — the treatment is very different than if they have seasonal allergies,” said Dr. Clifford Bassett, chairman of the Public Education Committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Bassett said people often reach for cold and sinus medicines even though they are suffering from allergies.
“Sometimes a person will have nasal discharge with allergies – but that doesn’t mean it’s a cold,” he told FOXNews.com.
“When you have allergies, you need to take the proper medications such as eyes drops, nasal steroid sprays and antihistamines, which work very well. If you take cold medicines — your symptoms are not going to go away. So a proper diagnosis is very important.”
2. You may have an oral allergy syndrome:
Has your mouth ever tingled or been itchy after you’ve eaten a fresh piece of fruit? If it has, you may have an oral allergy syndrome — sometimes called pollen-food allergy syndrome.
“About 1 in 3 seasonal allergy sufferers have oral allergy syndrome and it’s more severe during the pollen season,” Bassett said. “These allergic reactions occur when you have a cross-reaction between the pollen in the air and the proteins in certain fruits and vegetables.”
“I’ve even had a patient come in with oral allergy symptoms after she had her morning coffee flavored with hazelnut. It’s very common.”
Common cross-reactions occur in the following foods:
— Ragweed: melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew), bananas, cucumbers and zucchini, sunflower seeds, chamomile tea;
— Birch tree: apples, pears, plums, peaches, parsnip, kiwi, hazelnuts and apricots; potatoes, carrots, cherries, celery;
— Grasses: tomatoes, potatoes, peaches.
“While most people with oral allergy syndrome experience mild symptoms such as itchiness of the mouth and throat… a small percentage of people do have more severe symptoms,” Bassett said. “If that’s the case, see an allergy specialist for an immediate evaluation.”
The good news is that cooking or peeling these fruits and vegetables can help most people avoid reactions, so skip the raw apple and opt for apple sauce or canned fruit instead.
3. Exposure to the wrong plants and flowers
Spring is a time of new beginnings and growth – and for many people that means getting out in the garden.
But certain plants and flowers can really put a damper on that “green thumb” if you’re not careful.
“Stick to plants that smell and look nice,” Bassett said. “These are usually insect pollinated plants and are not ones that allergy sufferers have to worry about.”
These include: Azaleas, begonias, bougainvilleas, cacti, daffodils, daisies, dahlias, gladiolas, Irish moss, iris’s, lilies, marigolds, orchid, pansies, petunias, snapdragons, sunflowers, tulips, violets and zinnias. “After yard work, leave your clothing outside of your bedroom, brush off shoes, and rinse off glasses,” Bassett said. “Also, work in the garden on low-pollen days and limit your time to short intervals.”
He also recommended wearing a pollen mask while gardening to keep those allergies at bay.
4. Lack of planning.
“Make sure you check the weather and pollen forecasts before you head outside,” Bassett said.” “It’s important to have what I call an ‘allergy action plan’ in place if you want keep the misery index low.”
If you don’t – you’re asking for trouble especially on days when it’s warm, sunny, dry and windy.
“Pollen counts tend to be higher on these days — so you really want to plan ahead especially if there’s going to be a stretch of days that are increasingly warmer and dryer,” Bassett said.
That means exercising inside on these days and curbing the time you spend outdoors.
Unfortunately the good days to be outside for allergy sufferers are cool, drizzly and windless days when pollen counts tend to be lower.
Planning around your allergies is also important when it comes to vacation.
“Pollen counts can be lower if you’re by a body of water such as an ocean or lake… so take a beach vacation,” he said.
5. Starting treatment too late
“Don’t wait until you’re suffering,” Bassett said. “Pre-treat symptoms when they are mild. Find out which over-the-counter or prescription drug is right for you and begin to take it even before symptoms begin.”
It’s not just taking medications early that make the difference — washing away pollen is also very effective. Bassett calls it the “wash cycle.”
“Shampoo and shower nightly to rinse the pollens from skin and hair,” Bassett said. “Use baby tear-free shampoo to gently irrigate around your eyes and nose and make sure you change your cloths before entering your bedroom.”
This will reduce the amount of pollen in your bedroom and will ultimately help reduce your allergy symptoms.
“By being proactive, you can really reduce those one and two box tissue days, to just a handful of tissues a day,” Bassett said.