It is summer, and it is that time of the year again when your allergies act up. Summers should be spent outdoors, having fun in the sun. But if you have the sniffles, your days would not be as enjoyable.
Summer is the peak season of grass and weed allergies. These plants produce highly allergenic pollens that trigger the most bothersome allergy symptoms. In North America, their pollinating periods overlap. Grasses pollinate from April to September, while weeds start to pollinate in July until November. Around this time, doctors expect a surge of allergy sufferers knocking at their door.
Allergenic pollens are built for wind transport. They are light, dry granules that are easily carried away by the wind.
Grasses produce such allergenic pollens, but not all species are significant inducers. The most common allergenic grasses include timothy grass, sweet vernal grass, orchard grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Johnson grass, and Bermuda grass.
As for allergy-causing weeds, ragweed is the most common. Others include the English plantain, Russian thistle (tumbleweed), firebush (burning bush), lamb’s quarters (goosefoot), sagebrush, redroot pigweed, dock, and mugwort.
Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, is the most common effect of grass and weed pollen. The condition manifests as a runny, stuffy nose, coupled with sneezing, eye irritation, and an inflamed itchy throat. Hoarseness and loss of voice can occur. You will also notice allergic shiners, or dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses.
If the irritation gets worse, conjunctivitis and post nasal drip can also develop. More severe allergic symptoms include asthma attacks and chronic sinusitis. It is likely to cause mental dullness, fatigue, headaches, and impaired sleep.
If sleep is becoming close to impossible, it is about time that you visit your doctor. Lack of sleep can weaken your resistance and can obviously affect your over-all health.
For most patients suffering from grass and weed allergies, over-the-counter pills and nasal sprays can be prescribed, but they only offer temporary relief. If the allergy continues to be bothersome, the patient will be screened for allergens. Several species of grasses and weeds are tested. Once the allergen is identified, immunotherapy can be administered by injecting tiny amounts of custom-made vaccines under skin once a week for a 6-month period, until the body becomes immune to the allergen.
Allergenic grass and weed pollens are windborne, and because they are in the air, the allergens are easily inhaled and are practically unavoidable. Anyhow, listed below are some suggestions to lower your exposure to pollen.
1. When indoors, keep your windows closed and use air conditioning, especially at night.
2. When outdoors, keep your windows rolled up when driving.
3. Use air-conditioning instead of fans to keep cool.
4. Dry your clothes indoors in an automatic dryer, because if they are left to dry outside, they can collect pollen.
5. Once you get home, take a shower immediately to rinse off pollens that could have stuck to your hair and your skin. Watch out because even your pets can carry pollens into the house.
6. When mowing the lawn, wear a mask, or have someone else mow the lawn for you. Make sure that grass is cut short and trimmed regularly to slow down their pollen production.
7. The best time to do errands and activities outdoors is during the late afternoon or after a heavy rain when there are lower pollen levels. Avoid being outside between 5:00AM-10:00AM.
Tips for gardening
Here are some allergy sufferer’s tips for you and your yard from Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is the current vice chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:
• Wear a pollen mask while gardening
• Keep grass cut short
• Avoid touching your eyes and nose while gardening
• Plan outdoor time for rainy, wet, cloudy and windless days — which usually have lower pollen counts
• After yard work, leave your clothing outside of your bedroom, brush off your shoes and rinse your glasses. Also, wear gloves to minimize local contact and reduce irritation to the skin of your hands and arms
• Limit your gardening to short intervals on “high” pollen days
• If you are allergic to mold spores, avoid damp places and stagnant water
• Proximity and location of pollen-producing trees, shrubs and plants will affect your exposure to seasonal allergens
• Planting female trees in one’s own yard may trap incoming airborne pollen from male plants
Doctors recommend starting allergy medicine early; that means before the pollen strikes. The longer medicine is in your system, the better it will work, according to professionals. Medication may also depend on your activity. If all you’ll be doing is going from car to office to house, you may not need to take as much as if you’ll be mowing the grass or hanging out at your kid’s baseball fields. If that is the case, you may want to use an inter-nasal antihistamine or some Benadryl for precautionary treatment even before you go.
Some other good things to do in the battle against pollen are to leave your shoes outside or at least at the door so pollen isn’t tracked throughout the home. If your dog or cat spends time outside, a good brushing will help before she comes in, or wipe her off with a damp towel. It’s amazing how much pollen can stick to the fur and hair on pets.
If your car is parked outside and you have access to a hose, rinse the hood off before going somewhere, especially in the morning or if it’s been parked for a while. When you turn the car on, some of the pollen will get in through the air vents if you use the air conditioner so rinsing it will wash some away before it sneaks in.
Watch the weather for pollen counts, you can find it on your local news or on sights like weather.com, and treat accordingly. It’s nice to be able to enjoy the beauty of spring instead of the wrath of its pollen!
Seek a treatment that works for you and stop missing out on enjoying beautiful days outdoors.