Top tips for surviving summer hay fever

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Top tips for surviving summer hay fever

If you find yourself frequently sneezing, wiping a runny or stuffy nose or if you sometimes feel like scratching your eyes out due to extreme itchiness, there’s a good chance you have a seasonal allergy called hay fever affecting between 40 million to 60 million Americans.

Summer is when hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, tends to peak.  The ability to simply walk outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures, can turn into a miserable time for those who suffer from it.  However, contrary to popular belief, hay fever season can last all year round.  Fortunately there are things to lessen the effects of allergens to be able to breeze through summer with fewer sneezes.

What causes hay fever?

The cause of hay fever is when our body’s immune system becomes sensitized and then overreacts to something in the environment which normally doesn’t cause problems in other people.  This seasonal nuisance intensifies right during the time of year when you most want to be outdoors – when the tree and grass pollens increase in the spring and summer.  Seasonal hay fever can be caused by outdoor wind-borne allergens like pollen from trees, weeds, and grass. Indoor allergens can cause hay fever year-round which include dust mites, pet dander, and indoor molds.

Hay fever can come in two forms:

·      Seasonal – Symptoms occur in the spring, summer, and early fall.  They are brought on by allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores or to pollens from grass, trees, and weeds.

·      Perennial – This is when symptoms occur year round and is caused by dust mites, pet hair or dander, cockroaches, or mold. 

Other irritants of hay fever can be cigarette smoke, perfume, laundry detergent, hair spray, cleaning solutions, and diesel exhaust.

Diagnosing hay fever

To determine if what you are experiencing is due to allergic rhinitis, go see an allergist.  They will take a detailed history, looking for clues in your lifestyle helping pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.  They may recommend a skin test where small amounts of suspected allergens are introduced into your skin.  There are two types of skin tests:

·      Prick or scratch test – A tiny drop of a possible allergen is pricked or scratched into the skin with the results known within 10 to 20 minutes.  This is the most common type of skin test.

·      Intradermal test – A small amount of a possible allergen is injected under the skin using a thin needle.  After 20 minutes has passed, the site is checked for any reaction.

Managing seasonal allergies

Once it has been determined the cause of your allergy suffering, there are many steps you can take to reduce or possibly eliminate the symptoms associated with hay fever.  Follow the steps below:

·      Monitor pollen counts and when pollen counts are high, stay indoors as much as possible.  Pollen counts tend to be highest midmorning and early evening and on windy days where pollen is being blown around.

·      Window fans can draw in pollens and molds into a house so they are best avoided.

·      When outdoors, wear glasses or sunglasses to reduce the amount of pollen getting into your eyes.

·      When mowing the lawn, raking leaves, gardening or any kind of yardwork, wear a pollen mask such as a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask.

·      Before going outdoors, take allergy medication.

·      On hotter days when the pollen count is high, change your clothes when you come in from outside.  This will reduce your continued exposure to allergens that may have attached themselves to your clothes.

·      Hanging up wet clothes outdoors to dry is not advised as pollen can cling to towels and bed sheets.

·      Avoid rubbing your eyes as that can irritate them making the symptoms worse.

·      Keep your home and your car air-conditioned and check your home’s air-conditioning unit for cleanliness.

·      Wash bedding frequently using hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) and use “mite-proof” covers for pillows, comforters and duvets, and mattresses and box springs.

·      Keep the humidity in your home between 30 and 50 percent to limit exposure to mold.  A dehumidifier kept in the basement or other damp, humid places can help with this also.

·      A good air purifier can help as they can trap small particles in the air.

·      Use a damp rag or mop rather than dry-dusting or sweeping when cleaning floors.

·      After petting any animals, always wash your hands. 

There are many medications that can help relieve symptoms related to season allergies.  They range from intranasal corticosteroids, antihistamines, decongestants, and nonprescription saline nasal sprays and rinses. Another symptoms reliever to consider if all else fails and your symptoms are particularly bad are allergy shots or sublingual tablets.  Sublingual tablets are a type of immunotherapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014 taken several months before allergy season begins.  The treatment can continue for three years but only a few allergens (certain grasses and ragweed pollen) can be treated with this method.