Spring allergy season is upon us. During this time of year in Chicago we can expect the weather to change daily and drastically. Over the last several years there has been a consistent increase in the length and intensity of the allergy season, and this year should be no different. Thanks to a surprisingly mild winter, an early spring has arrived, and its allergy symptoms along with it. Trees are leafing and flowers are blooming earlier than expected. In some portions across the country, even earlier than ever recorded. For many Chicagoans, pollen season means lots of typical symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling, coughing, post-nasal drip and itchy eyes.
The exact cause of allergies is unknown, however we do know why an allergy occurs. When your body is exposed to a foreign matter like pollen, your body mistakes these harmless pollens for dangerous substances, and your immune system produces antibodies to fight them off. These “immunoglobulin E” antibodies produce histamine that can cause an allergic reaction and the usual allergy symptoms.
So how can you prepare for a rough allergy season ahead? We have a few tips for you.
How To Prepare Early
1. Start Your Medications Early
Don’t wait until the symptoms hit full-force and leave you in a miserable sneezing and coughing state. We recommend you start taking your usual allergy meds a few weeks before the allergy season arrives. At the very latest, take them as soon as you begin to experience any symptoms. The earlier you take them, the sooner you can prevent your immune system from going activating and going overboard. Pretreating before symptoms begin helps prevent inflammation and provide symptom relief. If you don’t currently have any medications or aren’t sure what to take, schedule an appointment with us for a consultation.
2. Get To Spring Cleaning
Another easy way to get ahead of spring allergies is to start your home cleaning sooner. A deep spring clean should include thorough dusting of all surfaces, from light fixtures to bookcases to tabletops. Wash any curtains, sweep all floors and rugs, and even vacuum furniture if you can. Cleaning everything will remove any pollen and dust that has been sitting inside your home all winter. Continue to consistently vacuum and dust throughout the spring season as well.
3. Keep Mold Out
The other allergy culprit besides pollen that can often be overlooked is mold. The The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) recommends cleaning your home of mold by focusing on the areas where mold becomes the most common – bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and any other areas with leaks or moisture. You can remove mold from hard surfaces with a mixture of water and detergent. All fabric materials should be washed with soap and water, and if mold on a certain material can’t be cleaned out, throw the item out. If you’re using a dehumidifier, make sure you are emptying the water consistently and keeping the unit clean. This prevents mildew from accumulating. Lastly, repair and seal any leaks in roofs, windows and pipes. The ideal humidity level in your home should be below 50%.
4. Track Pollen Levels
Stay on top of allergens by tracking your local pollen levels. Pollen.com offers an Allergy Alert App, and the AAAAI offers a tracking map so you can get a daily report. By tracking days when your allergies are likely to be worse, you can begin to plan your schedule accordingly. Peak pollen hours are midmorning and early evening, so it may be a good idea to stay inside as much as possible these times during a high pollen count day.
4. Tweak Your Schedule
Speaking of daily schedules, planning your day around the pollen count may be frustrating but ultimately worth it. Chicagoans are quick to head outdoors as soon as the temperatures rise. Early morning is popular for outdoor runners, however its also when pollen count is the highest. If you are having symptoms that are causing issues during outdoor exercise, it may be best to avoid mornings and schedule them for later in the day if possible. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that hot, dry days will more pollen in the air than cold, wet days.
Keep your seasonal allergies at bay by preparing early! If your over-the-counter medications aren’t doing their job, schedule an appointment with Dr. Latall to begin treatment.