By Jason Bessey, DO
Spring is almost here – hooray!
Spring allergies are back – booo!
If you’re an allergy sufferer like me, you’re familiar with this tempered reaction to the changing of the seasons. We’re excited for the transition to pleasant weather that beckons us outdoors while at the same time being fearful of the wrath of pollen and ragweed the moment we step outside. We’re in good company: an estimated 25 percent of American adults suffer from seasonal allergies.
Allergies can range from mild symptoms to downright debilitating. Here are a few tips to help get you through this sniffly, itchy, sneezy season:
- Avoid midday activities: Pollen spreads more during hot, dry times; the peak hours are 11 am to 3 pm. Because seasonal allergies cause inflammation to the sinuses and respiratory tract, heavy exertion puts you at greater risk of inhaling more pollen. So, avoid exercise and similar activities during these times.
- Shower at night: Many patients have told me their symptoms improved dramatically when they started showering at night instead of in the morning. It makes sense: pollen gathers on our clothes, body and hair and we track it into our homes. If we don’t rinse off before bed, we leave this pollen on our pillows and sheets where it can continue to irritate our sinuses. While you’re at it, try adding a nightly sinus rinse with saline nasal spray or another over-the-counter sinus rinse product.
- Opt for A/C: When the pollen count is high, of course it makes sense to close your windows. If needed, turning on the air conditioner is a good option because conditioned air is filtered so it contains a very low pollen count. Giving your body a break from outdoor allergens will often help improve symptoms.
- Don’t stress: You’re more prone to sniffles when you’re on edge. (A recent study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology tracked the stress levels of people with hay fever and found that allergy symptoms increased four-fold with increases in anxiety!) Getting more sleep, doing yoga, meditating and exercising are all good ways to manage stress.
- Limit alcohol: Studies have shown that women who drink 14 or more alcoholic beverages per week experience significantly increased amounts of allergy symptoms.
- Avoid cigarette smoke: It goes without saying that cigarette smoke is full of toxins. These irritants can worsen your runny, itchy, stuffy nose and watery eyes, so choose smoke-free spaces whenever possible.
Take meds early: Many people, including me, wait too long before starting allergy medications. Most steroid nasal sprays take 2 weeks to have full effect and antihistamines need at least 3-4 days to work their magic. If you are a chronic allergy sufferer, start medication when pollen counts begin to rise instead of waiting until you’re miserable.
This weekly sponsored column is written by Jason Bessey, DO, a physician at Shawnee Mission Primary Care – Blue Valley. Dr. Bessey and his wife, Lauren Bessey, DO, are passionate about overall wellness and they treat patients of all ages at their south Johnson County office. SMPC-Blue Valley is temporarily located inside Centra Care Shawnee Mission Urgent Care near 135th & Antioch; in March, the practice will move to Shawnee Mission Health’s new Overland Park campus near 159th & 69 Highway. To make an appointment with either Dr. Jason or Dr. Lauren, visit SMPC-Blue Valley’s webpage or call the office at 913-373-2230.