Spring is so close you can almost smell it unless you suffer from seasonal allergies. In which case, you'll have to take someone's word for it. According to Diana Levison, pharmacist at Lang's Pharmacy in Weston, people are already experiencing symptoms not normally manifested until after the vernal equinox .
Allergic reactions are the body's response to an invasion. When your interior sentries detect foreign substances, or antigens, the immune system is triggered. Its antibodies attack the allergen, which leads to the release of histamines and triggers allergic symptoms.
Allergy sufferers might be miserable in the springtime or any time, for that matter but they're far from alone. According to the National Center for Health Statistics , about 26 million Americans endure chronic seasonal allergies.
"We're seeing a lot of people with sore throats, postnasal drip, and coughs," says Levison. "We had those couple of warm days a few weeks ago, and that was enough to set the pollen forming. Add in all the rain, and you've got mold, too. Between the two of them, people who have any kind of allergy are going to suffer."
But how does a person discern between an early spring allergic condition and a late winter cold? Colds usually last five to seven days and can be accompanied by fever, body aches and other symptoms. People experiencing persistent cold-like respiratory symptoms without fever and body aches might be suffering from allergies. And in addition to congestion and coughing, allergy symptoms can include sneezing, itchy and/or watery eyes, runny nose, postnasal drip, sinus pain, headaches, congestion and itchy, stuffy ears. Allergy symptoms can also manifest as eczema, hives and other skin rashes.
Levison says many medications over the counter or prescription can lessen these symptoms. "I find Zyrtec seems to have a better effect for most people than Claritin," she says.
But steering clear of the irritants is the best line of defense. Don't bring the outdoors indoors with you. Wiping your feet off before walking into the house so you don't track pollen in is a good start. Taking off and washing clothes is also helpful in reducing allergens, as is closing windows when the pollen count is high.
So, before your wave your white tissue in surrender to allergies, take action. Then, think spring.
Are you among the legions of American allergy sufferers? What are you allergic to?
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