Does springtime make you sneeze?
If you greet blooming flowers with a runny nose, then you may be among the millions of people with seasonal allergies.
Hay fever or allergic rhinitis develop when your immune system overreacts to small airborne particles called allergens, during spring, summer or fall when certain plants pollinate. This allergic reaction commonly produces a range of episodic symptoms that tend to be worse outdoors, such as a stuffy, itchy or runny nose with clear mucus, sinus pressure or a “tickle” in your throat.
When is allergy season?
Tree pollination begins earliest in the year, followed by grass pollination later in spring and summer and ragweed in late summer and fall. In spring and summer, tree and grass pollen levels are highest in the evening. In late summer and early fall, ragweed pollen levels are highest in the morning.
According to William P. Boxer, MD, a board-certified internist at the Northwell Health Physician Partners, Westchester Medicine Specialties at Dobbs Ferry, mild winters and rainy springs stimulate early pollination pushing allergy symptoms into fall. “Allergy season has continuously gotten longer over the past 20 years, probably because of the warming climate,” Dr. Boxer said.
Take charge of allergies
To prevent allergies, you need to know what’s causing them. See your primary care physician who can perform simple blood tests to identify the allergens you’re reacting to. “Patients often think that they have to see an allergist and have skin tests to find out what they’re allergic to, but they do not,” Dr. Boxer said. Also, check your local newspaper, TV, radio station or use an app to monitor daily pollen counts.
If you’ve been outside, be sure to shower pollen from your hair and skin, and change clothes. “You could also use a saline nasal spray, which flushes out pollen,” Dr. Boxer says. Regarding medications, he said inhaled nasal steroids have become the mainstay for patients who test positive for allergies. Antihistamines, on the other hand, are hard for most people to tolerate, he added. “They may cause mental fogginess and reduce productivity at work.”
Other ways to manage allergies:
- Wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask when doing chores outdoors.
- Avoid gardening chores that stir up allergens.
- Don’t hang laundry outside: pollen can stick to fabric.
William P. Boxer, MD, FACP is a board-certified internist with over 19 years of experience in internal medicine and primary care. He is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor in Internal Medicine, a New York Magazine Top Doctor in Internal Medicine and a frequent contributor to the Marion Joyce Radio Show on AM 1490, WGCH, where he discusses allergies and other topics. He is particularly interested in helping patients achieve better quality of life by addressing allergic rhinitis, osteoporosis, smoking cessation, obesity and osteoarthritis of the knees. Dr. Boxer sees both new and existing patients at the Northwell Health Physician Partners Westchester Medicine Specialties at Dobbs Ferry. Call 914-326-2690 to schedule an appointment.