Ahh-choo! Tips for Tackling Seasonal Allergies

Spring has sprung, and along with birds nesting, flowers sprouting and temperatures warming, the spring months also usher in blooming trees, weeds and grass that spread pollen into the air, igniting allergic reactions for many who suffer from seasonal allergies.

For South Floridians, this year’s allergy season is proving to be a rough one, with sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes bothering new and veteran seasonal allergy sufferers — adults and children alike. In fact, Miami is considered one of this year’s “most challenging places to live with spring allergies,” ranking No. 28 in the top 100 cities in the U.S., according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2015 Spring Allergy Capitals report.

“We started seeing patients in December coming to us congested and sneezing, well in advance of the typical spring allergy season, often mistaking their symptoms for a cold,” said Viviana Sirven, M.D., an allergy and immunology specialist affiliated with the medical staff at Baptist, South Miami and West Kendall Baptist Hospitals. “A warm winter followed by a breezy spring is causing levels of pollen in the air to be extremely high, resulting in upper respiratory symptoms.”

Dr. Sirven says the most prevalent pollen currently in the air is from trees and mold. She offers the following advice to help ward off seasonal allergy miseries.

Tips for Controlling Seasonal Allergies

1. Identify your allergic triggers. Dr. Sirven recommends using one of the many smartphone apps available to track daily pollen counts. Get connected, then note any increases in your symptoms related to the pollen meters, such as itchy nose, throat and eyes. For people with asthma, monitoring pollen levels can be key to staying out of the emergency room during peak allergy season.

2. Stay indoors. Pollen levels are highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., says Dr. Sirven, so limit outdoor exposure and stay inside air conditioning during that time.

3. Control your environment. “Since we can’t control nature and the pollen it creates, environmental control is the No. 1 line of defense against seasonal allergies,” Dr. Sirven says. She recommends patients prune pollen-producing trees and shrubs in the yard, and limit the types of indoor plants that may trigger allergies. Reducing dust in your house by wiping household surfaces with wet paper towels can also help maintain a clean environment. Remember to wipe ceiling fan blades and other surfaces on which dust can build and spread into the air.

4. Use over-the-counter medication. Today’s second-generation antihistamines are safe, non-sedating and very effective in keeping the itchy, teary and runny symptoms of seasonal allergies under control, according to Dr. Sirven. For those suffering from bothersome symptoms, she recommends taking a daily over-the counter antihistamine, choosing from those with the active ingredient loratadine or cetirizine. Over-the-counter nasal sprays that contain the topical decongestant fluticasone can help reduce swelling of nasal passages that pollen can cause.

5. Keep airways clear and clean. For patients with allergic rinutis, commonly referred to as hay fever, Dr. Sirven recommends saline rinses to get pollen out of the nose and prevent bacterial build up, which can lead to sinus infections. There are a number of saline drops available over-the-counter.

“Seasonal allergies are the body’s way of reacting to a substance it doesn’t recognize, in this case, pollen,” said Dr. Sirven. “Over time, our bodies can build antibodies against the things it finds offensive. By following some of these basic, preventive steps, it’s possible to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms and enjoy the season.”

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