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Nip seasonal allergies in the bud

Spring is a key time for seasonal allergies. As plants, release pollen, millions of people with hay fever start to sniffle and sneeze. There is no cure for springtime allergies but understanding it and ways you can effectively manage your symptoms can drastically alleviate its impact.
Touro's Internal Medicine Physician, Dr. Schuyler Williams, sits down with Fox 8 to discuss spring allergies and how we can best manage our allergy symptoms.

What causes spring allergies?

Allergens are substances that can be breathed or swallowed, or that come in contact with the skin. The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen. Trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny grains into the air to fertilize other plants. When they get into the nose of someone who's allergic, the immune system sees these allergy triggers as a danger and releases antibodies that attack the allergens. That then leads to the release of several inflammatory chemicals including histamine which causes allergy symptoms.

Common allergy symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Decreased quality of sleep
  • Worsened asthma symptoms (for asthmatics)

When do spring allergies begin and end?

Depending on your location's climate, spring allergies typically begin in February and last until early summer. However, allergens like to stick around longer in South Louisiana where we have lots of trees, a longer grass season, hot summer, warm fall, and very high humidity.

What are some ways to easy allergy symptoms?

  • Check your allergy forecast
    • Dry and windy says can cause an increase in pollen in the air, while rainy days help reduce that amount
    • Try to stay indoors whenever the pollen count is very high- it usually peaks in the mornings
  • Keep your doors and windows closed during the spring months to keep allergens out
  • Shower when you come inside after being outdoors- it's important to rinse the pollen off your hair and body
  • Keep your air clean
    • Clean the air filters in your home often
    • Clean bookshelves, vents, and other places where pollen can collect
    • Vacuum frequently using a machine with a HEPA filter. Consider wearing a mask, vacuuming can pick up pollen, mold, and dust that are trapped in your carpet.

What are some over-the-counter allergy remedies?

  • Antihistamines - reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching by lowering the amount of histamine in your body.
  • Decongestants- shrink the blood vessels in the nasal passageways to relieve congestion and swelling.
  • Nasal sprays decongestants- relieve congestion and may clear clogged nasal passages faster than oral decongestants
  • Eye drops- relieves itch, watery eyes

Discuss with your doctor

Some antihistamines include decongestions, but those medications aren't for everyone.

Even though you can buy these allergy drugs without a prescription, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor first to make sure you are choosing the right medication. Your provider may even suggest a nasal steroid spray or for more serious cases, they may prescribe allergy shots. Over time, these injections can provide relief by reducing your immune system's reaction to a specific pollen or another allergen.

dr. schuyler williams

Dr. Williams specializes in Primary Care at Touro. She attended Meharry Medical Coll School of Medicine and completed her residency at Tulane University and is board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.