Rubbing your eyes or nose nonstop? Sneezing so much people stop saying “bless you?” Speaking with a voice twice as deep from stuffiness? Ah, yes. This must mean it is spring allergy season.
I moved to North Carolina less than a year ago. This is my first time in the state for spring allergies. Hey, isn’t it fun to write messages on cars through pollen residue?
Allergy impact in North Carolina
I definitely notice a difference here compared to my last home in the Midwest. I was curious about the data behind my senses, so I looked into it.
NC cities took home five of the top 100 spots for “The Most Challenging Places to Live with Spring Allergies” in 2016. But, it’s not all bad, NC did not rank in the top five worst spots in the South.
Did you know the highest pollen count ever recorded in Raleigh was 3,524 grains per cubic meter? YIKES! That happened on April 6, 2010.
March and April are when we see it the worst as trees are flowering across the state. From a numbers view, this means when daily counts go above 270 grains per cubic meter. The worst tree pollen is not seen – yep, the invisible tree pollen from hardwoods cause more allergies than the yellow stuff.
What can I do about it?
Most experts agree on a few ways to control seasonal allergies:
- Skip going outdoors during peak levels (check local Pollen reports) Peak levels occur mostly during early mornings or windy days.
- Keep windows closed
- Run air conditioners
- Try to have someone else cut the grass or wear a face mask
- Plan outdoor activities after it rains
- If on medication, take it early before peak season
- Take off your shoes before coming indoors
I’ve also heard local honey helps greatly. The thought is to expose yourself to local pollen and in time become less sensitive to it. But, there isn’t much science to back this up. Personally, I’m still trying it and willing to believe the old wives’ tale.
When is it time to speak to a doctor?
Personally, I’ve wondered when I may need to speak to my doctor. I often “tough it out” when it comes to allergies, but I don’t want to keep suffering.
I decided to reach out to Blue Cross NC medical director, Dr. Larry Wu, for more information. Here’s what I learned:
There are very effective over the counter (OTC) medications. Steroid nasal sprays (triamcinolone, fluticasone) for adults can be very effective without any sleepy side effects. OTC antihistamines (cetirizine, loratadine) are second-line treatments when the steroid sprays don’t help, or there is itching. Older antihistamines such as diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine are more sedating but effective. Many allergy sufferers find that taking both steroids nasal sprays and antihistamines in combination is very helpful.
Dr. Wu says there are times you should see a doctor. If you are wheezing or having problems with breathing. Other signs may include sustained loss of smell, persistent yellow nasal discharge, fever, pain over your face (sinus infection), or when you think you need prescription medications because OTC medications are not helping. These situations can be handled by your primary care provider or a specialist.
You need to see an allergist for any allergic reaction(s) that causes difficulty breathing, tongue swelling, or bee sting allergies, or when primary care treatments have not worked.
Allergists can perform skin or serum tests to show what you are allergic to. In some instances, allergy shots (desensitization) can help you decrease your symptoms for good.
Any route you may go, it is recommended to speak to your doctor. Be sure to let them know if you do start taking medications, even if OTC.
But through my watery, glazed eyes I do look forward to spring. It is a beautiful time of year. I love seeing all the new flowers and plants coming to life around me. Surely worth a few sneezes, wouldn’t you say?