Are you suffering from itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose or pressure behind your eyes? Feeling all stopped up lately? If so, you’re not alone.
Although people feel compelled to enjoy the great outdoors during the spring and fall seasons, it can also be an uncomfortable time for allergy sufferers. Allergies affect one in every five Americans, and each year more than $1 billion is spent to treat allergies in the United States, according to MedicineNet.com. Approximately five to 10 percent of Americans suffer from allergies, which are a leading cause of absences in schools and in the workforce.
In the United States, 75 percent of the population is allergic to ragweed; 50 percent is allergic to grasses and 10 percent to trees. Others are allergic to mold spores, animal protein and dust mites.
Although the proper term is allergic rhinitis, many refer to allergy flare-ups as hay fever. This term came about years ago when those harvesting crops complained of sneezing, nasal congestion and eye irritation.
Conditions such as sinusitis and asthma often stem from allergic rhinitis. When symptoms occur during a specific season it’s called seasonal allergic rhinitis, and when they occur throughout the year it’s called perennial allergic rhinitis, MedicineNet.com says.
According to AllergyUSA.com of Olney, Md., when allergic rhinitis flares, the person is reacting to an allergen in the environment. Some allergens are pollen, mold, dust mites and animal protein. The allergens come in contact with the nasal passages and eye linings causing sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery, swollen eyes.
Not all allergens can be avoided, and many windborne pollens may travel hundreds of miles. The following are common sources of allergens that cause problems and the time of year to beware of them:
- Early spring: trees
- Late spring: grasses
- Early summer, September and October: weeds, especially ragweed.
Diagnosing allergies involves a clinical history and skin tests that are performed by an allergist, says AllergyUSA.com. Physicians may recommend over-the-counter drugs or prescribe a drug to help relieve allergy symptoms.
According to MedicineNet.com, antihistamines are used to ease itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing; and can cause mouth dryness and sleepiness. Some non-sedating antihistamines are on the market.
Decongestants are used to shrink swollen membranes in the nose and make it easier to breathe. Sometimes bronchodilators or topical steroid nasal sprays are used to relax airways, and ophthalmic solutions are used to ease eye discomfort.
Some people find relief with oral or topical medications, but AllergyUSA.com suggests that this only masks the symptoms. Others find relief with immunotherapy, which includes injections of allergens once or twice weekly to build a tolerance to pollens, molds, dust mites and animals. It usually takes three to five years of treatment and is often recommended when oral and topical medications are ineffective or a person refuses daily allergy medications.
Many people are concerned about drowsiness that can result from many over-the-counter and prescribed allergy medications, and truckers have to be particularly careful while driving their trucks.
According to USA Today, many people who die in highway accidents are found to have sedating antihistamines in their systems. It takes an oral medication 30 minutes to two hours to pass through a person’s system.
There are alternative medicines such as Aller-Eze. Makers of the over-the-counter lozenges say Aller-Eze offers a non-drowsy formula with no known side effects.
There are precautions to take in the home to guard against exposure to allergens. A thorough and regular cleaning generally reduces mold and dust in the home and in your truck. The following are suggestions on how to guard against allergens:
- Close windows and use air-conditioning.
- Try to keep your home or truck cool, between 68 and 72 degrees.
- At home, use a High Efficiency Particulate Air-filter system to remove airborne allergens.
- Stay inside your home and keep truck windows closed when there is a high pollen count, humidity or wind.
- Remember that outside pollen and mold levels are highest from mid-morning to late afternoon.
- If exposed to pollen, shower, shampoo hair and rinse eyes with saline.
- Keep pets out of main living areas, especially bedrooms.
- Make sure your home has good ventilation.
- Use hot water to clean bed linens.
- It’s best to have hard flooring.
- If carpet is preferred, use a low-pile carpet, and vacuum it frequently along with upholstered furniture and draperies.
- Use Dacron or other synthetic pillows.
- Check the weather section in your newspaper or call the National Allergy Bureau’s Hotline at (800) 9-POLLEN to receive the pollen count in your area.
Sources: AllergyUSA.com and MedicineNet.com