Health Team

Avoidance is key for spring allergy sufferers

Posted March 25, 2016 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2016 10:56 a.m. EDT

Flowers are blooming all over the place, and cars and decks are slowly becoming coated by a yellow haze.

The annual influx of pollen can leave newcomers to North Carolina not only confused but sneezing, stuffy and just feeling "blah." Some people interpret those symptoms as a springtime cold when in fact it is allergies.

"The most common allergen in the spring – first we see tree pollen, and then, following the tree pollen, we see grass pollen. So, that's usually the way the progression is," Dr. Stanley Fineman said.

The layer of yellow pine pollen on cars is not the problem for allergy sufferers, according to Dr. Allen Mask. Though those large molecules can irritate the eyes, nose and skin, the real trouble-maker pollens are the white dots in that yellow hue, like white oak, sycamore and elm. Their pollen spores are stirred up by wind or by lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

Although it's impossible to avoid all pollen, there are some things to do in an effort to limit exposure.

  • Avoid or limit your time outside during high pollen count hours: generally between 5 and 10 a.m.
  • Check online pollen forecasts for the area and limit your time outdoors on days of high pollen count.
  • Use high-quality air filters inside your home.
  • Keep doors and windows to homes and cars shut to keep pollen out.
  • Change clothes or take showers to wash pollen off the skin and out of the hair following outdoor activities.
  • You may want to wash your hair before going to bed so that pollen doesn't end up on your pillow.
  • Wipe off your pet's paws when they come inside and don't let them hop in the bed.
  • Experts also recommend starting medications before symptoms begin.

More than half of allergy sufferers respond well to over-the-counter antihistamines like Zyrtec. Many people find nasal saline sprays help clear out congestion, and more people now use nasal washes like "neti-pots," Mask said.

He warned that overuse of over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts and glaucoma. If you use them on a daily basis and need them even during the quiet times of your allergies, see your allergist.  

People who suffer with more severe issues may need to see an allergist to get more effective treatment strategies.