Controlling Hay Fever & Allergies in the Spring

Dec 19 2017, 10:24 am

Now that spring has officially started, the warm weather and new flowers are right around the corner – and so is hay fever. With annoying symptoms like itchy eyes and runny noses, hay fever affects almost six million Canadians each spring. Luckily, there are a lot of simple ways for you to control your allergy and hay fever symptoms.

What causes allergies?

Hay fever allergies are caused by pollen from flowering plants. During Spring, the pollen from trees, like birch and cedar, is particularly aggravating (if you suffer from allergies at different times of the year, these are likely due to other types of plants).  Hay fever symptoms include congestion, itching around the nose and eyes, runny nose, teary eyes, and dark circles under the eyes.

A word of advice: if you think you may have allergies, take the time to be assessed by an allergist or immunologist. These doctors can determine the specific types of pollen that are causing your symptoms, and will show you how to be better at avoiding exposure to the offending allergens.

Why is there so much variation in allergy symptoms?

Why do some people get hay fever, but others do not? Basically, the allergic response varies tremendously from person to person.  When plants flower, they produce pollen, which spreads in the air. Breathing these tiny particles into our airways can cause an allergic reaction. Although most people’s immune systems ignore pollen particles, others mistake pollen for foreign invaders. For these people, the body tries to protect itself by attacking these particles. As part of the attack, antibodies are released which in turn, stimulate the release of chemicals called histamines. It is these histamines that are to blame for the dark circles and stuffy nose that are part and parcel of the allergic response. In fact, this is why many allergy medications are called “anti-histamines.” They neutralize the symptoms produced by the histamines, giving symptomatic relief and relieving the body’s allergic response.

 How can you minimize your allergy symptoms?

The best way to avoid allergy symptoms is to minimize exposure to pollen, either by staying inside or avoiding outdoor activities during high pollen days. Avoid using the air conditioner on warm spring days and try to keep the doors and windows closed. Also, high-efficiency filters added to your furnace can help by clearing the air of any irritating particles.

If you choose to go outside, take precautions to lessen your symptoms.  Avoid activities like gardening, which stir up pollen and other allergens. If you do have to do yard work, try to schedule it after a spring shower when the pollen has been washed out of the air and during a dry spell. Wearing a dust mask can help filter out irritating particles. It’s helpful to shower before going to bed, so that any pollen caught in your hair can be cleaned out, avoiding irritating symptoms during the night.

Another way to avoid too much pollen and get your dose of Vitamin D is to be aware of the pollen levels in the air. This is easier than it sounds –but many local TV and radio stations do provide reports on pollen forecasts and current levels. Knowing how irritating your environment may be can help you decide whether or not you should be outside gardening or inside reading a book!

How long will your symptoms last?

The good news is that hay fever symptoms generally go away once you are no longer exposed to the allergen. Over-the-counter decongestants and allergy shots can provide both short and long-term relief if you are feeling particularly desperate. However, it is always important to ask your doctor about your medications – even those that are over-the-counter. Some antihistamines can cause side effects like high blood pressure or insomnia, and should only be used for limited periods of time. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which medications are best for you and your family, so that you can make the most of Vancouver’s beautiful spring months.

This article was written by Alex Roston at Connect the Doc. Connect the Doc is a website that allows prospective patients to find and book short notice appointments online, 24/7 with a Vancouver chiropractor, registered massage therapists, dentists, physiotherapists and other private healthcare clinics.