Life in New England isn’t always easy. Just as the weather turns nice and we want to be outdoors, we often confront symptoms like watery eyes, itchy throat and a stuffy or runny nose. Unfortunately, spring and summer are the worst seasons for allergies. This is because trees and grass are blooming and producing large amounts of pollen. Mold can also be a problem this time of year if conditions are damp.
Allergy symptoms are caused when our immune system overreacts to otherwise harmless allergens such as tree pollen, ragweed or mold spores and produce excessive amounts of antibodies to the allergens. It’s often hard to avoid exposure to pollen in the spring and summer because we are outdoors more often and leave our windows open at this time of year.
The most common culprit of late spring and summer allergies is grass pollen. Toward the end of the summer, around mid-August, weed pollens such as ragweed start causing problems for many people. There are many different types of ragweed and they can cause symptoms well into the fall.
You may have noticed that your allergy symptoms tend to diminish during and after rainy days. This is because the rain washes the pollen spores away, lowering the pollen in the air. Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, there are steps you can take to feel better and alleviate summer allergy problems:
- Pay attention to the pollen count. You may want to be outside less if the pollen count is high. Warm, windy days are usually the worst for pollen.
- Don’t open windows, use the AC. Keeping your windows closed while driving and when you are indoors helps prevent pollen from getting into the car or the house.
- Vacuum and dust frequently. Pollen likes to collect on flat surfaces along with dust, so cleaning frequently will keep levels down. Wearing a mask while cleaning will help prevent breathing in dust and pollen.
- Take frequent showers. Washing your hair and changing into fresh clothes can reduce the allergens affecting you and the symptoms they cause.
If you are still having trouble with allergy symptoms, you should see your doctor or other primary care provider. Your caregiver can advise you on the best over-the-counter and prescription medications to take, and whether you should see a specialist for more testing. Knowing what triggers your symptoms can help determine the right treatment for you. Many patients take advantage of immunotherapy shots to reduce the severity of their allergy symptoms.
Remember, just because its allergy season doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors and miss out on all that summer fun. With a little preparation and some help from your doctor, you can enjoy the season without your allergies getting in the way.