Doctors and meteorologists are calling it a “pollen tsunami.” No, we’re not talking about a tornado or hurricane – just an allergy season that’s taking the country by storm.
It could be that the itchy eyes and runny nose you’ve noticed over the last week or two aren’t from a spring cold or flu after all. Both may be signs of allergies. In the U.S., about 50 million people typically experience nasal allergies — but this year is worse than ever. In fact, there has been so much pollen this year already that doctors say even seniors that have never experienced allergies before, are suddenly feeling the effects of all these bloomin’ plants.
Normally tree pollen fills the air in early spring, but this year’s long cold winter caused a delay in the appearance of those spring buds. That wouldn’t be a big deal, except that now the tree allergy season is overlapping with grass allergies – and suddenly allergy sufferers are getting a double dose.
We often think of ice caps and polar bears when we talk about about climate change, but researchers report that climate change has a profound effect on pollen as well. The allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer these days. In fact, by the year 2040, it’s expected that the pollen counts will be double what they were in 2000.
Those sneezy itchy symptoms are already here this year — and it seems they’re likely to stay around for a while. There may not be anything we can do about that, so what can you do to cope?
The simple answer is to avoid the outdoors. But after a long winter (and aren’t they all long?) it’s only natural to want to throw open the windows and take a walk in the sunshine. And that’s okay. The warm air and sunshine are great for your mental health and the vitamin D is good for you physically. So it doesn’t make sense to stayed holed up inside if you don’t have to.
Here’s how to manage your allergies and still live life the way you want to.
See your doctor. If you have a history of allergies, your allergist or primary care doc will probably want to see you once a year anyway to make sure your symptoms haven’t changed and to assess how well your meds are working. Be sure to be honest about the severity of your symptoms. With so many over-the-counter meds these days you don’t usually need an allergy prescription anymore, but your doctor can be a big help in managing your condition.
If this year’s season of “Extreme Allergies” is hitting you for the first time, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to make sure that’s what’s really going on. If you actually do have a cold or flu, allergy meds won’t help you much with that. But let an expert guide you! If this is all new to you — or if you’re experiencing symptoms that are different than before—your doctor might do some skin testing to determine just what you’re allergic to. They’ll usually test for all the seasonal allergies like grass, trees and ragweed plus the year-round culprits such as cats, dog, mold and dust. Once you know what you’re most sensitive to, you’ll be able to better understand how to avoid the worst triggers.
Take your medicine. If your doc has recommended that you take an allergy medication, take it exactly as directed. Itchy eyes? Try adding allergy eye drops for extra relief. If you’re using nasal steroids, remember that these take a week or two to take effect. They can be very effective — just don’t expect them to get rid of your allergies with the first spray!
Wash your clothes. If you’ve been outside – working, walking, gardening, biking, etc. – throw your clothes into the wash basket or washer when you come in at night. If you put your clothes back into the closet, the pollen will stay on them and possibly even transfer to your other clothes – getting you off to a bad start the next time you pull them on.
Use your dryer. You may remember the heavenly smell of fresh wash from when your mom hung it on the clothesline. But if you have allergies, don’t do it!! Dry your clothes and bedding in the safe confines of your dryer.
Take a shower before bed. Now that your clothes are clean, do the same for your body — especially if your allergies are bad. Take a shower and wash your hair to get rid of the pollen and keep it off your sheets. And don’t forget to wash your eyelashes!! Really.
Keep you windows shut at night. I know, I know – a cool summer breeze feels great. But if you’re prone to allergies, you’ll sleep better with the AC on and the windows shut.
Sleep on clean sheets. Be sure to wash your bedding regularly and keep your mattress zipped up to reduce the risk of dust mites and other allergens.
Take shots. No, drinking won’t help get rid of your allergy symptoms! But allergy injections might. Allergy shots work by injecting the allergen into your body until your body becomes immune to the “invader.” Once you’ve developed a tolerance, your body won’t have that severe reaction to pollens and other allergens anymore. Just be aware that shots take time – up to a few years – before you really notice the difference. For many people, shots are miraculous – but they aren’t a quick fix.
Aston Gardens At Parkland Commons provides senior living options for those ready to start the next chapter of their lives. Learn about senior living programs, amenities, and rooms today. Contact us now at 954.807.4298.