This time of year, the whole St. Louis area is collectively sneezing and rubbing its eyes. St. Louis is known for its horrible allergy conditions and air quality in the spring, but there are some ways you can reduce the damage. Here's 10 tips for managing spring allergies from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:
1. Start your allergy medications early. For many areas of the country, spring allergies begin in February and last until the early summer. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollenate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall months. Allergists recommend starting medications to alleviate symptoms two weeks before they begin. If you have a history of prior seasonal problems, start your medication at the first sign of any symptoms.
2. Check the daily St. Louis allergy index to find out the predominant allergens and pollen counts for the day before you plan outdoor activities.
3. Know what you're allergic to. You may think you know what’s causing your allergy symptoms, but more than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round allergies. An allergist, a doctor who is an expert in treating allergies and asthma, can perform tests to pinpoint the cause of your suffering and then find the right treatment to stop it.
4. Stay indoors. Not only will April’s showers bring more flowers, it might also cause more symptoms for spring allergy sufferers. Rain can promote plant and pollen growth. Wind accompanying a rainfall can stir pollen and mold into the air, also heightening symptoms. Allergists advise sufferers stay indoors when pollen counts are highest, which is often midday and afternoon hours.
5. If you enjoy gardening, garden when pollen counts are not high. Peak pollen times depend on the plant, the weather and your location. Watch your local forecast, and talk with an allergist, who can identify which plants trigger your symptoms and provide practical tips and treatment options tailored to your situation.
6. Keep windows closed (at home or in the car) to keep pollens out.
7. Get screened for asthma. Allergies and asthma are often worse during different times of the year due to environmental allergens. An estimated 75 to 85 percent of asthma patients have allergies. These allergic responses in the lung can lead to symptoms of asthma. If you have spring allergies, this can be why you have more asthma symptoms during the season. Those that believe they may have symptoms of nasal allergy or asthma can find a free screening program in their area by visiting www.acaai.org/nasp.
8. Wash hands often and rinse eyes with cool water after coming indoors to remove clinging pollen. Shower and wash hair at night to prevent pollens from getting into bedding.
9. Avoid eating produce and other foods that might aggravate sniffles and sneezing. If your mouth, lips and throat get itchy and you sniffle and sneeze after eating certain raw or fresh fruits or other foods, you may have "oral allergy syndrome". The condition, which affects about one third of seasonal allergy sufferers, occurs in people who are already allergic to pollen when their immune system sees a similarity between the proteins of pollen and those of the food, and triggers a reaction. If you are allergic to tree pollen, for example, foods like apples, cherries, pears, apricots, kiwis, oranges, plums, almonds, hazelnut and walnuts may bother you. Cooking or peeling the food may help, but you should talk to an allergist.
10. A mild winter may cause an early release of pollens from certain trees, and a longer season may be worsened by the priming effect. Once allergy sufferers are exposed to this early pollen, their immune system is primed to react to the allergens, meaning there will be little relief even if temperatures cool down before spring is in full bloom. If weather reports call for a streak of warm days, begin taking your medication.