Spring Allergy Season Looms, Health Experts Urge Preparations

Valentine's DaySubmitted Image

PHILADELPHIA, PA — On Valentine’s Day, there’s more than just love in the air. For allergy sufferers, the day of romance marks the start of preparations for the spring allergy season. With 2023 being the warmest year on record and winter warming faster than any other season in most of the U.S., allergy seasons are starting earlier and lasting longer.

Dr. Manav Segal, a leading Philadelphia allergist and an Ambassador for the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI), advises those affected by spring allergies to have their medicine ready by mid-February. “Since tree pollen season can run from the end of February through April, it’s a good rule of thumb to have medicine on hand by Valentine’s Day,” says Dr. Segal. He recommends consulting with an allergist to formulate a plan that includes starting prescribed medications, antihistamines, or steroid nasal sprays ahead of time to prepare the body for the ramp-up of symptoms.

A variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications can help manage spring allergies. Non-drowsy antihistamines such as loratadine, cetirizine, fexofenadine, and levocetirizine are often the first line of defense. Corticosteroid nasal sprays like fluticasone, budesonide, or triamcinolone can also be effective. Decongestants may alleviate nasal congestion, but they also come with common side effects. For eye symptoms, saline eye drops and cool compresses may provide relief.

In addition to medication, certain lifestyle changes can help minimize exposure to allergens. Dr. Segal suggests staying indoors during peak tree pollen times in the early morning, as well as on warm, windy days when pollen levels tend to be higher. Protective eyewear is advised when biking, and keeping car windows closed while driving can reduce exposure. Washing clothes worn outside and showering to remove pollen from skin and hair can also help.

While allergies can often mimic symptoms of other illnesses, it’s important to note that COVID-19 symptoms are distinct from seasonal allergy symptoms. Fever, dry cough, achy muscles, severe fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea are typically associated with the Coronavirus, not with seasonal allergies. Unlike allergy symptoms, those of COVID-19 do not improve with antihistamines.

For those dealing with more serious allergy symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, seeing an allergist may be necessary. Testing can identify specific allergens to avoid and determine effective treatments. For some, immunotherapy can be a good option.

Immunotherapy helps desensitize people to specific allergens by retraining the immune system to tolerate them. As Dr. Segal explains, “The key is to identify your seasonal allergy triggers and then work with your doctor to determine the right balance of strategies that enables you to reclaim your lifestyle and enjoy the season once again.”

In closing, with the record-breaking warm temperatures in 2023 and the continued trend of warmer winters, spring allergy season is expected to start earlier and last longer. Health experts, like Dr. Segal, urge allergy sufferers to prepare by having medications ready by mid-February, adopting lifestyle changes to minimize allergen exposure, and considering a visit to an allergist for more severe symptoms. As the spring season approaches, these steps could mean the difference between a season of discomfort and one of enjoyment.

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