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Itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, fatigue…. These are just a few of the signs of seasonal allergies—also known as hay fever. And get ready: It looks like we may have a real doozy of an allergy season this year.  Milder winter temperatures in places can cause plants to pollinate early. And a rainier spring leads to quick plant growth, as well as an increase in mold.

Allergic reactions mostly occur when your body responds to a “false alarm.” And, as you well know, there isn’t a cure for seasonal allergies. But there’s no reason to let this time of year take all the spring out of your step! Arm yourself with information.

Monitor climate factors. When checking the weather and planning your day, keep these things in mind:

·         Heat and high humidity promote the growth of molds.

·         Cool nights and warm days allow tree, grass, and ragweed pollens to thrive.

·         In spring and summer, tree and grass pollen levels tend to peak in the evening.

·         In late summer and early fall, ragweed pollen levels tend to peak in the morning.

·         Windy and warm days often result in surging pollen counts.

·         After a rainfall, pollen counts may go up, even though the rain temporarily washes pollen away.

Avoid your triggers. If allergies are making you miserable, you may want to see an allergist. Specializing in allergies, this person can help you figure out what triggers your symptoms. Then you can find ways to cut off those triggers at the pass. During allergy season:

·         Keep windows and doors shut in your car and home.

·         Monitor pollen and mold counts daily. Weather reporters often provide this information.

·         After working or playing outdoors, take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes.

·         When doing chores outside, wear a NIOSH-rated filter mask. Better yet? Delegate!

·         Be on the lookout for mold, which can build up in moist months. A deep spring cleaning will help get rid of mold and other allergens. Cleanliness may not be close to godliness. But it sure may help you feel better.

·         Clear the air with a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). If you have central air, use air filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12. Change air filters every three months.

Relieve your symptoms. Corticosteroid nasal sprays, decongestants, antihistamines. These are examples of over-the-counter drugs that can help relieve your symptoms. Come talk to me to make sure you’re using them the right way. If side effects are a problem, we can work together to come up with a solution. For example, a few possible side effects of antihistamines are sleepiness, dry mouth, constipation, and light-headedness.

For some people, allergies can lead to or coexist with other health problems such as asthma or sinusitis. Asthma narrows or blocks the airways. Sinusitis is caused by inflammation or infection of cavities behind the nose.Just one more reason why working with your doctor and pharmacist is a good idea.

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Is It A Cold or Allergies?

Too often when someone has the sniffles, others assume that they are contagious. However, those sniffles are often caused by something not contagious at all. For those suffering from congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing, a cold may be the first thought, but these are also signs of allergies. Learn the differences between allergies and a cold so you can find the right relief fast.

What Is a Cold?

Also known as “the common cold,” a cold is a virus. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are more than 100 different types of cold viruses. So while symptoms and severity may vary, colds generally share some of the same basic characteristics.

  • Colds may be passed through the air from coughing and sneezing, as well as through touch.
  • Most common symptoms include cough, sore throat, and a runny, stuffy nose.
  • Sneezing and itchy eyes are less common symptoms.
  • More severe colds can cause fevers and body aches.
  • Recovery is usually quick — in fact, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) estimates that the average duration is 7 to 10 days.
  • If symptoms last more than a week or two, the cold may have progressed into an infection.
  • People with allergies are sometimes more prone to catching colds.

Despite its name, you can catch a “cold” any time of year. NIAID estimates that the average healthy adult catches two to three colds per year. Young children may get more colds because of their weaker immune systems.

What Are Allergies?

Allergies occur when your immune system has an adverse reaction to certain substances. Upon exposure to triggers, the immune system releases chemicals called histamines. While intended to fight off perceived intruders, the release of histamine is actually what causes allergy symptoms.

The following are the facts you need to know about allergies:

  • Some of the symptoms are similar to colds, such as sneezing, sore throat, coughing, runny nose, and congestion.
  • Sore throat in allergies is most often caused by postnasal drip.
  • Allergies can also cause rashes and itchy eyes.
  • Fevers and body aches are not signs of an allergy.

Seasonal allergies are most common, but you might also be allergic to certain substances year round. Allergy triggers may include:

  • pollen from trees, grasses, or weeds
  • dust mites
  • animal dander
  • mold
  • foods (such as tree nuts, milk, and eggs)

You can tell you might suffer from allergies instead of a cold by the duration of your symptoms — they won’t go away without treatment or removal from the original trigger.

Treating the Common Cold

Since they are viruses, colds themselves are not treatable. Still, there are medications that can help alleviate your symptoms while a cold runs its course. These include:

  • cough syrups (these are not recommended for children under the age of two)
  • decongestant sprays (only use for a few days — these are also not recommended for children)
  • pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)
  • multi-symptom cold relief medicines (such as DayQuil)

Make sure you ask your doctor before taking any over-the-counter cold medications, especially if you take any prescription medications or if you have any underlying health conditions. No cold medications should be used for an extended period of time. Doing so can cause side effects, such as liver damage.

There are also lifestyle remedies you can try that are free of the risk of side effects. Some of the options include:

  • drinking a lot of water, juice, and herbal tea (avoid caffeine)
  • using saline nasal sprays
  • gargling with salt water
  • using a humidifier

Antibiotics don’t work for colds, since they are viruses. If a cold progresses to a sinus infection, however, an antibiotic may be used.

 
 
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