Blooming flowers, budding leaves on the trees and warmer temperatures are welcome signs of spring. But there’s one springtime sight that causes a collective groan around the Lowcountry: yellow pollen.
For allergy sufferers, blooming trees and grasses mean a season of sneezing and sniffles. It’s impossible to escape the pollen, but there are some ways to make spring allergy season more bearable, says Dr. Carolyn Word with Charleston Allergy & Asthma.
Start, by avoiding these six common mistakes:
1. Don’t be blindsided. Tree pollen can begin falling here in the Charleston area as early as February. Grass pollen peaks in April and May and continues through the summer months. Be prepared and ready for those first signs of yellow pollen floating through the air. Over-the-counter medications are more effective if you start taking them a couple weeks before the pollen hits. So, if you know grass pollen is about to peak in April, start your allergies meds in late March.
2. Don’t wonder about the cause of your symptoms. If you’re suffering from allergy symptoms, but are unsure about the exact culprit, consult with a board-certified allergist. An allergy test will determine your specific allergies and allow you to treat the symptoms more effectively.
3. Don’t assume you have a common cold. The start of spring allergy season coincides with the time of year when people get a winter cold – both of which have similar symptoms. You may have a runny nose, congestion and sneezing and simply assume you’ve caught a cold. If the symptoms persist for two weeks, it’s more likely you have allergies. It’s harder for the medications to catch up the longer you wait. Know what allergies you have so you don’t mistake your symptoms for a winter cold.
4. Don’t give up hope if over-the-counter medications don’t work. Consult with a board-certified allergist to see if you might be a candidate for immunotherapy. An allergy shot may be a better way to manage your symptoms. Also, there are now FDA-approved tablets for those allergic to grass, ragweed and dust mites.
5. Don’t ignore pollen counts. Charleston Allergy & Asthma posts the daily pollen count on their website – a useful tool for allergy sufferers. It’s helpful to know when pollen counts are particularly high, so you can take extra care to keep the pollen outside and out of your house. Dr. Word recommends showering before bed to wash off the pollen. Otherwise, you’re breathing it in all night and getting pollen on your sheets and pillowcases.
“When the pollen count is high, it drives up allergy symptoms,” Word says. “It almost becomes like a pollutant in the air.”
6. Don’t treat your allergies with local honey. Studies have shown this isn’t effective – mostly because it’s the wrong pollen. Bees make honey from flower nectar, so the honey will consist of flower pollen, not grass or tree pollen, Word says. Also, ingesting raw or unpasteurized honey puts you at risk of ingesting bee parts or bee venom.
If you suspect you have allergies, visit your primary care doctor or a board-certified allergist right away to get tested. Charleston Allergy & Asthma has six doctors on staff who are all board-certified allergists and immunologists.
Request a consultation online at CharlestonAllergy.com.