The Wellness Corner … by Judith Wallace, RN, FCN
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, have you noticed that your "allergy season" seems to be getting longer or more severe? Perhaps your tried and true "allergy medicines" don't work like they used to and you are wondering what's going on. Or perhaps you've not been troubled with allergies until the past year or so, but suddenly you have sneezing, or watery eyes and other allergy type symptoms. If this is the case, you are not alone. Many people are experiencing these same concerns. What IS going on?
Millions of people suffer from watery eyes, sneezing, coughing and runny nose when pollen is in the air. This can be spring, summer, fall...or all three. And many people are finding that their symptoms are now starting earlier in the spring than ever before-and often lasting until a hard frost kills plants and tree foliage. Now scientific evidence is suggesting that allergies are and will continue to increase and lengthen due to changing climate. Preliminary evidence shows that earlier warming in the spring and later freezing temperatures in the fall encourage plants and trees to bloom earlier and continue to grow longer into the fall. A growing plant or tree continues to produce pollen. That means that the desirable plants and trees along with the unwanted weeds continue to trigger allergies and asthma for a longer period.
In addition, due to pollution the carbon dioxide levels in the air around us is increasing. While carbon dioxide is known to hamper our respiratory function, it actually acts as plant food producing a robust crop. So, when there's a longer growing season with plant growth stimulated by increased carbon dioxide, there is more pollen. Allergists around the world are noting increases in both allergies and asthma, and expect this trend to continue as climate continues to change.
So, if you are an allergy sufferer, what can you do if your symptoms don't respond to your over-the-counter medicines like they once did? First, ask yourself some questions:
Am I taking my medications consistently (that means daily during the season). Many people mistakenly think that an allergy pill or spray only needs to be used on a bad pollen day. This practice can make your medication less effective.
Have I tried to reduce my exposure to things that I know trigger allergies? That means saving outdoor activities for late afternoon and early evening when pollen counts are lower.
If the answer to these questions is yes, and your OTC medicine isn't enough, then it's time to talk to your doctor and ask for an appointment with an allergist. Avoid trying to treat yourself. Jumping from one allergy medicine to another rarely helps and can actually delay treating your specific condition. There definitely are additional options that a physician can implement including prescription strength medications. But the allergist may also perform allergy tests to determine your specific allergies and prescribe desensitizing shots. Allergy shots are clinically proven to provide relief for allergy sufferers. Additionally, an allergist may determine that the respiratory symptoms you have are actually due to some other cause and direct you to the appropriate treatment.
If your allergies are becoming more troubling, don't struggle needlessly. There are steps you can take to feel better during pollen season.
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