For many, spring has come early this year and the allergy season is already underway. Trees begin spreading pollen before leaves appear on their branches, while grass and weeds begin pollinating later in the year.
"We tend to associate the beginning of allergy season with flowering trees and plants. Truth is allergy season begins much earlier, when buds on otherwise bare trees begin releasing their pollen." said BJ Lanser, MD, assistant professor of Pediatrics at National Jewish Health. "People who suffer from tree allergies may already be experiencing symptoms."
Dr. Lanser offers advice on steps you can take now to get ahead of the spring allergy season.
Know exactly what triggers your allergies. See an allergist and have testing done to determine which pollens or other items (molds, pets, etc.) cause you to have an allergic reaction. Specifically knowing what you are allergic to can help your allergist tailor your treatment plan.
Start your allergy medications now. Whether you take nasal sprays and/or oral medications, begin taking your allergy medications one to two weeks before the pollen season begins. Beginning those medications early can help lessen the severity of your symptoms later.
Stay consistent. Take your medications as prescribed. Your medications will work much better with consistent use rather than being used only as urgent relief.
Nasal washes can be very helpful. Many people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, or other lung problems also have nasal and sinus symptoms. Drainage from your nose and sinuses can make rhinitis and asthma worse, especially at night. A salt-water nasal wash, or nasal irrigation, can help reduce these symptoms. View nasal wash guidelines.
Monitor pollen counts. Know the pollen counts each day. On high pollen count days keep your windows closed to minimize exposure to pollens. In the car, keep windows closed and use air conditioning on the recirculate setting. If you have been outdoors a lot, showering before going to bed can go a long way toward helping you get a good night's sleep.
This information has been approved by BJ Lanser, MD (March 2016).