Flowers blooming, grasses going from brown to green and new leaves bursting forth on the trees – these are all signs that spring is in the air. For most, these are welcome harbingers of warm weather and outdoor fun. For others, these spring signals bring little more than sniffling, sneezing and watery eyes.
Thanks to a mild winter, pollen counts in the Charleston area are already on the rise. But before you grab the medicine and a box of Kleenex, get the facts on springtime allergies.
Dr. Carolyn R. Word of Charleston Allergy & Asthma offers up the straight talk on allergies with these six most common myths:
Myth #1: A runny nose, congestion and sneezing must be allergies.
These symptoms actually mirror those of a common cold, so let them run their course in case it’s a simple case of the sniffles. If symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, it’s a good time to get an allergy test to get to the root of the problem.
Myth #2: Allergy medicines are safe to use year-round.
Over-the-counter allergy medicines like Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra and Flonase are generally effective and considered safe, even for children. But why continue to take a daily medication when it’s not necessary? An allergy test can help parents know when their child actually needs to take medication.
“If you're not exposed to the allergy every day, there’s no need to stay on the medicine,” Word says.
Myth #3: There’s no effective treatment for allergies.
Oftentimes patients take an over-the-counter medication that doesn’t help, so they throw up their hands in despair. While there is no cure for allergies, immunotherapy comes pretty close. There are two FDA-approved options – a shot and a tablet (tablets are for either ragweed or grass). The course of immunotherapy is three to five years and leaves patients with lasting benefits.
Myth #4: Pollen allergies are not related to food allergies.
It may come as a surprise to many, but there is a condition called pollen-food allergy syndrome. Also known as oral allergy syndrome, it occurs when certain foods interact with pollen to cause an allergic reaction when consumed. It’s most common with fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables. A protein in the food reacts with pollen (grasses, trees, weeds) and causes itching, burning or swelling of the lips and tongue when eaten.
Myth #5: Allergy shots are too expensive and time consuming.
Allergy shots are done just once a month. When compared to the lifelong costs of taking medications, allergy shots actually can be more cost effective. And the shots will greatly improve quality of life.
Myth #6: Flowers are the biggest spring pollinator.
The truth is that pollen from flowers is heavy and sticky, so it’s not easily transported through the air. It’s usually insects that transport flower pollen from place to place. In the allergen world, pollen has to be light so it’s picked up into the air. Then, people breathe the air and react to the pollen. So grasses and trees are the most likely culprits of spring pollen.
If you’re dreading the persistent symptoms of spring pollen, consider an allergy test from the experts at Charleston Allergy & Asthma.
For over 30 years, the team at Charleston Allergy & Asthma has been helping Low Country residents breathe easier, feel better and live better. All the doctors are board-certified allergists who use the latest treatments available to manage allergies and asthma.
To request an appointment or learn more about services, visit charlestonallergy.com.