4 Things to Know About Pollen and Allergies

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April 6, 2018

4 Things to Know About Pollen and Allergies

Do you track pollen counts like some people track their favorite sports team’s stats? About 7 percent of adults suffer from a pollen allergy, also known as hay fever, and it can be a major nuisance during some of the nicest times of the year.

You may be surprised to learn that pollen isn’t actually causing your symptoms. “Your sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and itchy throat occur when your immune system thinks that pollen is a dangerous invader,” explains Jacqueline Slakoper, DO, Holy Redeemer Family Medicine. It releases a chemical called histamine to fight pollen, which results in an onslaught of symptoms.

Here are four more important facts to know about pollen allergies.

1. You should start taking your allergy medicine before symptoms strike.

Allergy medications need some time to work. Ideally, start taking your medicine a few weeks before you expect symptoms to ramp up. For example, if you tend to experience symptoms starting in April, begin taking your medicine in March. If the weather is expected to warm up toward the end of winter, start taking your medicine before then. “Talk with your doctor about the best time to start taking your medications,” says Slakoper.

2. You can take steps to reduce your allergy symptoms.

Try the following:

  • Stay inside as much as possible.
  • Keep your windows closed and use air conditioning with a HEPA filter.
  • Take a shower and wash your hair before going to bed each night to remove pollen from your hair and skin.
  • Wash your bedding in hot water once a week.
  • Wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
  • Change your clothes as soon as you come indoors after being outside.

3. Your allergy symptoms are better when it’s wet outside.

On rainy, cloudy, and windless days, pollen doesn’t move around very much. However, hot, dry, and windy weather can sweep more pollen into the air and stir up your symptoms.

4. Sometimes you need more than medication.

While there are many different over-the-counter and prescription medications available to treat your symptoms, many people find they don’t make allergies disappear completely. If this sounds familiar, then you may be a candidate for immunotherapy. This is a technique in which you’re exposed to small amounts of an allergen, either through allergy shots or a tablet you place under your tongue, to help make your immune system less sensitive to it.

“If over the counter remedies don’t work or your symptoms are severe, you should consider working with an allergist, to find out the specific types of pollen that you’re allergic to and develop a treatment plan that can help control your symptoms,” says Dr. Slakoper.

Need a doctor? Search for one here or call 1-800-818-4747.

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