While spring does bring sunny days and warm weather, the seasonal change also means the return of irritating spring allergies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Seasonal allergies cause symptoms like sneezing, coughing and itching, and your reaction can range from bothersome to truly harmful. It’s important that you understand your allergies so you can feel your best.
We spoke with Dr. Beth Miller, director of the UK Asthma, Allergy & Sinus Clinic, to find out what habits will help prevent spring allergies.
What causes spring allergies?
Miller: Spring allergies can be caused by tree pollen and mold spores.
What medications do you recommend?
Miller: The best treatment depends upon your symptoms. Over-the-counter nasal sprays, like Flonase and Nasacort, can be very helpful for both runny and stuffy noses. Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin, are helpful for preventing other allergy symptoms like itchy, watery eyes and sneezing.
What other solutions are there for limiting spring allergies?
Miller: There are things you can do in your home to make a difference. You can start by keeping your windows closed and leaving your air conditioning on. This will help keep pollens and mold spores from entering your home.
Can environmental allergies be outgrown over time?
Miller: Unfortunately, no. The only known solution for environmental allergies is getting allergy shots. However, these shots are more likely to improve your symptoms than completely cure your allergies.
What are the differences in symptoms between allergies and a cold?
Miller: A cold will typically last 7-10 days, and allergies will last longer with exposure. Colds can include a fever, chills, body aches and a yellow/green nasal discharge. On the other hand, allergies typically won’t cause these symptoms, and the nasal discharge for allergies is usually clear.
What are the risks of not treating seasonal allergies?
Miller: If uncontrolled, seasonal allergies can cause a decrease in your quality of life, leading to symptoms like irritability, poor concentration and disturbed sleep. Also, if uncontrolled seasonal allergies linger for too long, they can lead to more serious problems like sinus and ear infections, as well an increased risk of developing asthma.
When is it necessary to see a doctor about allergies?
Miller: Consider seeing an allergist when your symptoms aren’t easily controlled, if you develop uneasy chest symptoms or sinus/ear infections, or if your quality of life is being compromised. An allergist will help you identify your specific allergens and suggest the best treatment.