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There’s something in the air … seasonal allergies

By The Health News Team | May 10, 2023
Seasonal allergies

Red noses, stuffy noses, runny noses: 'Tis the season for seasonal allergies.

Seasonal allergies, commonly known as hay fever, are often triggered by pollen grains released into the air by trees, weeds and grasses, which are especially productive in the spring. If your body overreacts to these allergens, you may experience a range of unpleasant symptoms, from sneezing and coughing to itching eyes, runny nose, headache, sore throat, ear pain — and even hives.

According to Dr. Bryn Salt, an allergy and immunology doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, San Diego's temperate climate can pose difficulties for those who suffer from seasonal allergies.

"In San Diego, allergy symptoms can be year-round because our landscapes include plants from all over the world," she says. "We have such a pleasant moderate climate. Climate change will likely extend times of pollination as well."

Researchers participating in a recent study in the Netherlands support this belief, concluding that climate warming is an important factor in increasing pollen production. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 25% of adults in the U.S. have diagnosed hay fever, and the numbers continue to rise.

While allergies — the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. — have no cure, there are things you can do to ease symptoms and reduce or avoid exposure to the allergens.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recommends the following ways to reduce or prevent allergic reactions:

  • Limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.

  • Keep windows closed and use central air conditioning with a HEPA filter in your home and car.

  • Bathe or shower daily and wash your hair to remove pollen deposited throughout the day.

  • Wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes from pollen exposure.

  • Wash clothing worn outside and dry clothes in a dryer rather than on an outdoor line.

"Unfortunately, complete avoidance can be difficult in San Diego, because we enjoy so much time outdoors," says Dr. Salt. "Therefore, medications may be necessary."

Dr. Salt recommends oral antihistamines to help relieve uncomfortable symptoms and decongestants for relief from nasal stuffiness. Nasal sprays also help to ease symptoms and reduce congestion, and can be started before symptoms arise to block potential allergic reactions.

If efforts to reduce reactions and medications do not offer relief from your allergies, talk with your doctor about whether you may be a candidate for immunotherapy, a long-term treatment that can reduce or prevent allergic reactions.

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