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Allergic to Mild Winters?

One of the mildest Michigan winters in many years is about to enter the history books. That was bad news for skiers and builders of snowmen, but most everybody else relished the warmth. What’s not to love?

Well, funny you should ask. Due to the unseasonably warm temperatures and the lack of rain (which helps wash away the allergens) we’re already seeing an unusually early allergy season here in southeast Michigan. Patients come in with suspected sinusitis only to be sent home with their allergy prescription a month earlier than usual.

Unfortunately, an early start to the allergy season doesn’t mean the misery will end earlier. Instead, you should prepare for an extra-long allergy season this spring.

According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology there are three primary causes of outdoor, seasonal allergies: tree, grass and weed pollen.

Offender Common Culprits When Symptoms Typically Occur
Trees

Alder, birches, elms, willows, poplars, beeches, chestnuts or oaks, maples and box elders, hickories, cedars, ashes, junipers, cypress, sequoia and sycamores

Late winter into spring or early summer

Grasses

Bermuda grass*, bluegrass, orchard grass, ryegrass, timothy, fescue, sweet vernal

Late spring and early summer

Weeds

Ragweed**, mugwort, Russian thistle, pigweed, sagebrush, English plantain, goosefeet and cocklebur

Late summer into autumn

But it’s not all bad news. There are positive and effective measures you can take against this annual health nuisance.

To minimize allergens meddling in your life, here are a few things you can do during the long, hot spring:

  • Wear wrap around sunglasses that can help to block some of the airborne allergens from reaching your eyes. Avoid touching your eyes while outdoors. Itchy eyes can be one of the most debilitating of allergy symptoms.
  • Wear a baseball cap to catch pollen particles destined to land on your face.
  • Wash your hands, face (showering is best) and change your shirt/clothing when you come in from outside.
  • Limit your outdoor activities during the early morning hours (5a-10a) when pollens are at their highest.
  • Monitor the pollen forecast on weather websites or t.v. programs and plan reschedule outdoor activities accordingly.
  • When you can’t avoid the outdoor activities, wear pollen mask (such as a NIOSH rated 95 filter mask). Always wear gloves when gardening and don’t touch your nose or eyes.
  • Exercise has been shown to reduce allergy symptoms — try to work out at least 3 times per week.
  • Drink enough water so your body can flush the allergens out.
  • Keep your nutrition good, including vitamins that help with stress, like vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and pantothetic acid (a B vitamin)
  • Most of the most effective anti-histamines are now over the counter and many are non-sedating so drowsiness is less of a problem. Start them early in the season and use them earlier in the day before initial symptoms worsen.
  • See your doctor if over-the-counter remedies don’t work as you may need a nasal steroid spray or other prescription agents.
  • Consider seeing an allergy specialist for possible “immunotherapy” (allergy shots) if your allergies are severe and the therapy is not working.
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