Sneezing? Check. Stuffy nose? Yes. Watery eyes? Yup.
Must be allergy season in South Carolina.
Seasonal allergies are caused by exposure to substances in the air (such as pollen) that appear only during certain times of the year. In Charleston, the main culprit in the spring is tree pollens (grass and ragweed allergies become a problem in the fall). Pollen arrived early in Charleston this year, thanks to a mild, wet winter and early spring. That means we’re facing a longer allergy season than usual.
Some allergens — such as yellow pollen you see on cars and other outdoor surfaces — are obvious. Others are microscopic and float in the air. While many people develop allergies at a young age, seasonal allergies can happen later in life. That’s because allergies develop based on your level of exposure. Eventually, your immune system may say “enough!”
Take control of your allergies
The worst weather conditions for people with seasonal allergies are warm, breezy and dry days. Rain can bring relief, but it’s only temporary.
Pollen is unavoidable, but these tips can help you reduce your exposure:
- On high-pollen days, keep the windows in your home closed. Use the “re-circulate” feature on your home air conditioning unit and in your car to prevent pollen from entering your space.
- Pollen will stick to your hair, eyelashes, skin and clothes. After you come inside, be sure to wash your face and hands to remove any pollen. Shower or take a bath every day before going to bed to remove pollen from hair and skin.
- Dry all clothing and bedding in the clothes dryer, not on an outside clothesline.
- Be sure to bathe your dog regularly, since man’s best friend can attract pollen too.
- Wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from pollen.
- When doing yard work, wear gloves and a face mask.
Your smartphone can help you track local allergens and log your symptoms. Check out the app store on your phone for popular products such as Allergy Pollen Count, My Pollen Forecast and Allergy Alert. They’re free!
Medication, allergy shots can help
Over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal sprays work best if you begin taking them a week or two before symptoms appear. These are effective for most people, but many of us need prescription drugs to experience relief. And allergy shots can help, although they typically need six months to take full effect.
Still sniffling through the season? Maybe it’s time to ask your primary care provider or an allergy specialist for help. Find the right doctor for you by searching our online directory or by calling our physician referral line at (843) 402-CARE.