What to expect as allergy season begins

The start of spring brings warmer weather, blooming plants and – unfortunately for more than 50 million people in the United States who suffer from nasal allergies – it also signifies the start of allergy season. Allergies are the fifth-leading cause of chronic disease in the U.S. and cost the health care system an estimated $18 billion each year.

The biggest trigger of spring allergies is pollen, which is released into the air by plants in bloom. Pollen released into the air can travel for miles and spark allergic reactions such as sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny nose and cough.

Fortunately for the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, there are precautions to lessen symptoms and keep allergies under control.

r Keep windows closed. Open windows allow pollen to more easily get inside the home and cause irritation. Keeping windows closed and running the air conditioner can be a better alternative for allergy sufferers.

r Change indoor air filters regularly. If you are running your air conditioner or heater instead of opening the windows, make sure you change your air filters regularly to help keep the air in your home clean. It is recommended you replace air filters every three months, but if you have pets or suffer from severe allergies, you may want to consider changing them more often.

r Track pollen counts. You can find pollen level reports in your local news media or online. Take note of high pollen forecasts and plan ahead by either taking allergy medication or avoiding outdoor activity when pollen projections are high.

r Avoid yard work. If possible, avoid cutting the grass or weeding the garden during allergy season. If you must to do outside chores, wear a pollen mask and shower immediately afterwards to remove pollen from your skin and hair.

r Keep your house clean. Allergy sufferers should try to keep a clean home year-round, but this tip is especially important during allergy season. Dust and pollen can find its way inside your home and settle on floors, baseboards and other surfaces. It’s best to do your spring cleaning early and schedule routine cleanings throughout the season to ensure your home is free of allergy-inducers.

r Try over-the-counter remedies. If you exhibit allergy symptoms, you can take antihistamines or decongestants to relieve them.

r Talk to your doctor. If you experience severe allergy symptoms and don’t see improvement with over-the-counter medication, it is best to talk to your physician. Your doctor may recommend allergy tests to pinpoint the specific triggers of your allergies and identify the best treatments for you.

Prepare for allergy season before it hits to minimize symptoms. Take steps now, at the start of spring, to develop an allergy plan and reduce your contact with pollen irritants.

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Dr. Dennis Probst, is board certified in Family Practice and is accepting new patients at Haven Medical Center, 208 E. Church St., for an appointment call 570-748-0590

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