The first days of spring are always exciting: the days get longer, the sun shines brighter, and colorful flowers start to bloom. But for many people, this also means the dreaded allergy season has begun. Sure, the weather’s great, but who wants to spend time outside if it means itchy eyes and runny noses? Luckily, Dr. Carolyn Word of Charleston Allergy & Asthma has plenty of tips for surviving spring allergies. The biggest trigger for spring allergies, she explains, is tree pollen — the stuff that hits in early spring and coats your car. Other major triggers are mold, and grass pollen, which hits in late spring and early summer.
"The symptoms can start off similar to that of a cold: nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip (which can cause a sore throat), itchy nose and eyes, watery eyes, and cough,” Dr. Word says. To set yourself up for an enjoyable spring season, here are her best tips for managing these “not-so-enjoyable” springtime symptoms.
1. Get tested
A great first step is getting tested to determine exactly what’s causing your symptoms. “If you haven’t had testing, it’s highly recommended, and then you can take a more targeted approach,” Dr. Word says. “Especially with kids, parents often wonder, ‘Is it cold? Is it allergies?’ Testing becomes very valuable to determine a seasonal plan and determine when to start medication.”
2. Take medications early
There are lots of great medications out there, but make sure you take them early to prevent your symptoms from occurring at all. Most of them work much better before you start feeling sick. If you know you’re allergic to pollen, take medication weeks before pollen season.
Dr. Word recommends a nasal corticosteroid spray (like Flonase or Nasonex) or an oral antihistamine (like Claritin or Zyrtec.) In some cases, there are a few additional prescription options your doctor might recommend.
3. Watch the pollen count
Charleston Allergy & Asthma counts the pollen locally and posts it daily to their website, so check each day as part of your morning routine. “It’s a good way to know what’s out there and what to expect,” Dr. Word says.
4. Keep your pets clean
Even if you’re not allergic to your pets, they can bring a lot of pollen inside with them. Dr. Word recommends cleaning them on a weekly basis to keep them pollen-free.
5. Shower before bed
Remember, if you’ve been out and about, there will be pollen clinging to you. “We want patients outside having fun in the nice weather, but if you’re pollen-allergic, we recommend showering at night so you won't breathe in all the pollen on your hair and skin,” Dr. Word says.
6. Consider immunotherapy
Finally, if you want long-term relief beyond just suppressing symptoms, you might consider immunotherapy. This treatment option shifts your immune response when you come into contact with the offending allergen.
“It’s the closest thing we have in our field to a cure,” Dr. Word says. “So that’s the most proactive thing you can do. The effects are long-lasting.”
Are you ready to learn more about surviving springtime allergies? If you are concerned about how they may affect your family this season, reach out to Charleston Allergy & Asthma for an appointment. Their board certified doctors have been providing allergy and asthma care in the Charleston area for over 30 years. They have locations in Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, and West Ashley. For more information, call (843) 881-2030 or visit them online.