It’s National Asthma and Allergy Awareness month. And you know what? May makes the most sense: It’s the month many of us across the U.S. are sneezing, sniffing, dripping, and rubbing our eyes thanks to seasonal allergies.
Airborne allergens like pollen from grasses and trees are powerful this time of year across the states, throwing our systems—and symptoms—into overdrive. Here’s what could be making you feel worse, and how to find some springtime relief.
Facts about airborne invaders
If you’ve been hearing a lot about food allergies these days, you’re not the only one: due to serious reactions, the topic gets a lot of press coverage. And while allergic reactions from food, medication, and stings can be alarming, airborne allergies to pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and mold spores are much more common.
About 35 million Americans suffer from upper respiratory tract symptoms that are allergic reactions to airborne particles.1 Think springtime’s effects: sneezing, congestion, post-nasal drip, coughing, watering eyes, and itchiness. Plus, symptoms of asthma like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath—which affect 11 million Americans—are often brought on by airborne allergens.1
Pollen allergy, also called hay fever, is one of our country’s most common chronic diseases.1 A chain reaction of inflammatory effects can lead to missed work and school days for sufferers. Oftentimes, these clogged-up symptoms run in the family: Kids are more likely to develop allergies if one or both of their parents have them.1
Springtime’s airborne invaders can be tracked and counted: The pollen count you hear about on the news estimates grains of pollen per square meter of air.1 The higher the number, the worse you’ll feel! Counts tend to spike on windy days and in the early morning. “Stay indoors on dry, windy days,” advises Kyon Hood, MD, FAAP, president of Teladoc Health physicians. “The best time to go outside is after a long rain,” he says, or generally when it’s wet and cooler.
Breathe easier with these steps
While it’s tough to avoid airborne allergens like pollen this time of year, you can make both your indoor environment and outdoor activities more pleasant with a few tips from Dr. Hood. When pollen counts are at their highest, avoid yardwork and other outdoor chores. “If you do spend time outside, consider wearing a pollen mask, and wash clothes—as well as hair and skin—after you come back inside,” Dr. Hood says.
He also recommends going with air conditioning in your home, car, and at work, if possible. “Make sure you close doors and windows at night, early in the morning, or really any time pollen counts are high,” Dr. Hood says. He also suggests regularly cleaning out home air filters and also using a high-efficiency particulate air filter in your vacuum cleaner.
In general, allergy sufferers—whether affected by pollens, animal dander, or dust mites—will have fewer symptoms if their environment is kept clean. Try to sweep, dust, vacuum, and wash sheets often. Avoid the spring-cleaning habit of letting in the fresh air and running house fans, which will only stir up allergens, making allergies worse.
Unfortunately, you can’t entirely eliminate all allergens from your home. If your symptoms are impacting your quality of life, reach out to us any time of the day or night. One of our U.S. board-certified Teladoc Health physicians may recommend taking allergy medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, or some combination of treatments, Dr. Hood says, and will work with you on ways to find relief.
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