Tissues disappearing faster than usual? Have you noticed a recent increase in the itchiness of your eyes? You may have noticed an increase in sinus pressure as well (and not just because of the changing temp). You’re not the only one who feels this way. Seasonal allergy sufferers globally are preparing for the onset of allergy season in 2022.
According to Neeta Ogden, MD, an allergist and medical advisor to Curex, seasonal allergies begin when your body’s immune system reacts to outside allergens like tree pollen and grass. Inhalation of these allergens, which enter the body via the eyes, nose, or mouth, can lead to respiratory problems. At that point, Dr Ogden says, allergens are brought into touch with allergic cells in your body, triggering symptoms such as itchy eyes, nasal congestion, sinus pressure, rash and postnasal drip.
All of these symptoms may be present in some people, while others may only have a few. In addition, you may suffer what Dr Ogden refers to as a “reactive airway,” which means that it is more difficult for you to breathe when exposed to allergens outside. Almost like an asthma reaction to spring allergies, she explains.
Unfortunately, allergies can cause a lot of misery, but there are ways to alleviate their effects. When allergy season officially begins, how long it will last, and what you can do now to prevent those irritating symptoms from resurfacing later are all covered here.
When Does Allergy Season 2022 Start?
Pollens, for example, are seasonal allergens. According to an allergist and immunologist from Allergy & Asthma Network’s Purvi Parikh MD, a spring and fall pollen season begins in late March to early April for trees, grasses, and weeds, and ragweeds take over from late August to first frost for weed pollen.
For those who suffer from year-round allergies, there are a few extra things to keep in mind. Doctor Ogden suggests that seasonal allergies may be exacerbated by your body’s sensitivity to allergens in the home, such as dust mites or animal dander. The pollen and grass you collect on your shoes, clothes, or even your hair can also transport outdoor allergies inside your home.
As a result, you may continue to suffer symptoms from February through November, even after allergy season has officially ended. In other words, all but the winter.
Corinne Keet, MD, PhD, an allergist at Johns Hopkins University, adds that climate change means allergy season begins earlier and lasts longer. Pollen levels have increased by at least 20%, according to the New York Times, 20 days sooner than in 1990.
Pollen.com has a National Allergy Map that gives you an up-to-date allergy forecast in different parts of the country and an Allergy Alert app that gives you five-day forecasts with detailed information on specific allergens to help you decide if you should stay inside that day. Clifford W. Bassett, MD, the medical director at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, says that drizzling or rainy weather is linked to no or lower levels of seasonal pollen. Windy, warm, and sunny days, on the other hand, can cause more pollen to come out.
But you might think that allergy season is just allergies, but depending on how bad it is in your area, it can pose a pretty big health risk. People with serious lung problems like asthma can have a hard time breathing when they are exposed to allergens like pollen. Research also shows that kids do worse in school when they have allergies and that being exposed to pollen makes it harder for your immune system to fight off respiratory illnesses.
When Should I Start Taking Allergy Meds?
There’s no reason to wait until you’re in a lot of pain before taking allergy medicine. Dr Parikh says that allergists say you should start taking your medicine a couple of weeks before allergy season starts, or at the very least, as soon as you notice symptoms. She also says that taking them early can stop an immune system freakout before it happens, making symptoms less severe. Depending on where you live, the National Allergy Map can help you figure out when to start taking your medicine.
As for which allergy medicines to take, Dr Keet recommends starting with steroid nasal sprays like Flonase or Rhinocort if your nose is stuffed up. These sprays reduce inflammation, which makes your nose stuffy. She also says that if you have itching, sneezing, and a runny nose, you should look for antihistamines that don’t make you sleepy, like Zyrtec, Xyzal, or Allegra.
Just remember that over-the-counter allergy medicines only treat the symptoms, not the cause. If your allergies are getting worse, they may work less well.
What Else Can I Do to Prepare for Allergy Season?
Even if you’re taking over-the-counter allergy medicine, you may still have symptoms. So then what?
Fortunately, there are a few additional options. To start, Dr Ogden advises seeking advice from a board-certified allergist who can identify *exactly* what’s bothering you. She advises taking proactive measures, and the simplest method to reduce symptoms is to identify their root causes and take steps to prevent them.
Don’t exercise outside or sleep with your windows open once you’ve identified the offender. Both may seem seductive as the weather warms up, but according to Dr Ogden, “you have to isolate yourself from your allergens” so embrace the inside to lessen the likelihood of experiencing a reaction.
When you return home, make an effort to eliminate allergens by taking midnight showers, washing your face to remove any debris that may be attached to your eyelashes, and making sure to shampoo your hair. Dr Ogden explains, “You want to remove pollen residue.” Consider purchasing an air purifier for your bedroom if you want further protection.
If that doesn’t work, allergen immunotherapy, often known as allergy shots, can help your immune system become less sensitive to allergens. According to Dr Parikh, in certain cases, they can even cause a cure. You may educate the immune system to gradually stop being as allergic by exposing yourself to what you are allergic to in modest, increasing dosages, she claims. “This is the greatest technique to deal with allergies since it targets the root cause and strengthens your immunity to a particular allergen.”
The negative? It takes some time to administer allergy injections. According to Dr Parikh, you must receive them once a week for six to eight months, followed by once a month for at least two years. It can take up to six months before you start feeling better, so you’ll need to have a little patience as well. Therefore, if you want protection by March, you should start the year before in September.
Dr Ogden continues that there are other pills and drops that you can put under your tongue to help your body become less sensitive. Once you start taking them, they can help you fight a variety of allergens. You’ll need to see a doctor receive a prescription. Some people believe that if you begin using these drops a few months before allergy season, you’ll notice the effects the following year, she explains.
How Can I Tell if My Symptoms Are Allergies or Covid-19?
Before you panic, consider this: In the year 2022, there will be one benefit of allergens: masks. “Masks mean less inhalation of pollen through the nose or mouth, and that may translate to lower symptoms for some patients,” notes Manisha Relan, MD, a board-certified allergy.
Having said that, pay attention to any symptoms that do present if you’re concerned about how to differentiate between them. Headaches, wheezing, and sore throats are the most common symptoms of both COVID and allergies. Although these are more frequent allergy symptoms, COVID patients may also experience nasal congestion, a runny nose, and sneezing. Although there is always a chance that these are caused by allergies, a dry cough, shortness of breath, and loss of smell are all typical COVID-19 symptoms.
In general, though, visiting a doctor’s office or urgent care facility is your best option if you’re unsure whether your symptoms are caused by allergies or COVID.
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