The mild winter and early start to Spring has been a pleasant surprise for many, but not for those who suffer from seasonal allergies. Unseasonably warm weather means allergies are hitting people harder than usual. Dr. Lee Sonin, an allergist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital says his patients who suffer from seasonal allergies are experiencing allergy symptoms about three to four weeks earlier than normal.
Dr. Sonin reports this allergy season is not only early, but it is much worse due to the high counts of allergens like tree pollen. As a result, some individuals who do not normally suffer from allergies, may be experiencing allergies this Spring and mistakenly attribute their symptoms to a common cold.
“A common cold will typically involve coughing and blowing your nose, but when you cough or blow your nose and there is green mucus present that is a sign of infection which means you have a cold,” says Dr. Sonin. “When you are suffering from allergies in addition to having a stuffy nose or cough your eyes and nose will be itchy.”
He adds there are several options for reducing exposure to allergens. If you are allergic to mold, pollen, or other outdoor allergens, use air conditioning instead of opening windows during warm or hot weather. For those who are allergic to pets like dogs and cats avoid homes where they animals are present.
People with mild allergies can also use over the counter medications like Zytec and Claritin which will help reduce allergy symptoms.
“If you are taking over-the-counter allergy medications and still cannot be outdoors for an extended period of time without having allergy symptoms, it is probably time to visit an allergist,” says Dr. Sonin. “An allergist will be able to provide you with prescription medications which can provide relief for more severe allergies.”
In addition an allergist can also discover what people are allergic to by performing allergy tests. This can be done with a blood tests (radioallergosorbent or RAST) and/or “scratch” tests. These tests can give allergy sufferers an idea of what triggers their allergies. For instance, if they are allergic to tree pollen and see that tree pollen is high on a given day, they can make an effort to stay indoors during days pollen counts are high.
Allergy shots can reduce or eliminate allergic relations by gradually increasing their exposure to what they are allergic to. Gradually a tolerance is built up for the allergen which reduces the body’s reaction to the allergen. A full course of shots is typically between three and five years, often beginning on a weekly basis, and gradually becoming less frequent.