Why Family Medicine is ImportantMany people celebrate the warm weather and new growth that comes with spring. But for those with spring pollen allergies, often called hay fever, these changes signify the beginning of a miserable few months.

Seasonal allergies are common all year long. But while winter allergy triggers can include things like mold spores, dust mites, and pet dander, spring allergies are most often triggered by pollen. Pollen is released into the air by trees, grass, weeds, and flowers to fertilize other plants. If you have a pollen allergy, your immune system sees this substance as a threat and begins to attack it with antibodies. Antibodies release histamines into your blood. These chemicals cause reactions like sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes because their goal is to get the allergen out of your system.

Some of the most common symptoms of spring allergies include allergic rhinitis (nasal inflammation), congestion, coughing, sneezing, itchy and runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes. Unpleasant symptoms can also develop into more painful conditions, like postnasal drip. These bothersome symptoms can be seriously damaging to your quality of life in the spring months-- luckily, there are plenty of ways to manage them.

Here are 10 tips for managing your spring allergy symptoms.

  1. 1. Check the pollen forecast.

    One easy way to avoid spring allergens is to check the pollen count before venturing outside. Tons of weather sites feature a forecast for how much pollen will be in the air during certain times of day. Pollen levels tend to be lowest in the early morning. Pollen counts rise throughout the day and are usually highest in the afternoon to early evening hours.

  2. 2. Go outside on rainy and windless days.

    When the weather is warm, dry, and windy, pollen has an easier time circulating through the air. You might not think that damp weather is the best for enjoying the great outdoors, but it could actually allow you to breathe most easily during the springtime.

  3. 3. Avoid activities that could stir up pollen.

    Avoiding outdoor activities that could cause pollen to circulate in the air around you is especially crucial in managing grass pollen allergies. These could include mowing the lawn, using a leaf blower, gardening, and pulling weeds.

  4. 4. Protect your face while outdoors.

    If you can't avoid the outdoors when pollen levels are highest, there are ways to minimize your exposure. To protect your eyes, wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. While doing yard work or gardening, try wearing goggles. Additionally, face masks can prevent you from breathing in pollen, and wearing gloves will keep allergens off of your hands. Finally, avoid touching your face as much as possible.

  5. 5. Shower after spending time outside.

    When you spend time outdoors, pollen has ample opportunity to stick to your hair, skin, and clothes. Showering and changing your clothes immediately after you come inside can prevent pollen from spreading throughout your home and irritating your allergies further. If you can't shower as soon as you come inside, just wash your face and hands, and make sure to shower before you go to bed.

  6. 6. Dry your clothes indoors.

    Although it might be tempting to hang your laundry on a clothesline to dry in the sun, it's best to avoid this practice during spring allergy season. When you bring your garments inside, you'll be bringing pollen and other allergens with them. Finishing your laundry in the dryer is an easy way to avoid filling your space with pollen.

  7. 7. Keep your windows closed.

    Whether they're in your home or car, open windows give pollen a chance to permeate your space. To keep allergens away, keep your windows closed as often as possible.

  8. 8. Filter the air in your home.

    In addition to keeping your home and car cool so you can keep your windows closed, air conditioning can help filter the air around you. Make sure to change the filter on your air conditioning unit as needed so that it continues to trap pollen effectively.

    Another option is to use an air purifier. These devices are available at many price points, and they can help relieve indoor allergies as well as outdoor ones. So if someone in your home has a pet dander, mold, or dust mite allergy, this could be beneficial for them, too!

  9. 9. Use saline eye drops and sinus rinses.

    Saline eye drops and nasal sprays can help relieve itchiness and congestion by relieving inflammation and rinsing your eyes and nose free of pollen. Many are available over the counter, but as with any medication, it is best to speak with your primary care provider before trying them out.

  10. 10. Schedule an appointment at Epic Medical.

    You shouldn't have to deal with spring allergies alone – our practitioners at Epic Medical can help you manage your symptoms. They can offer lifestyle advice, as well as recommend and prescribe medications, such as oral antihistamines and nasal sprays, to help you breathe clearly throughout spring and early summer.

    If your symptoms are more serious, they can also refer you to an allergy specialist. These doctors can perform allergy testing via a skin prick test to determine what allergy offenders cause your immune system to overreact. They may also recommend allergy shots or other forms of care to eliminate allergic reactions.

This spring allergy season, take control of your symptoms with a visit to Epic Medical.

Epic Medical is Fox Chapel’s premier comprehensive medical provider. Our family medicine practice features concierge medicine, sports medicine, and physical therapy services. We provide one-on-one, personalized care to all of our patients. If you’re ready to receive comprehensive medical care from physicians who treat you like family, schedule your first appointment with Epic Medical today.