RYE BROOK, N.Y. - Spring is so close you can almost smell it -- unless of course you suffer from seasonal allergies -- in which case, you'll just have to take someone's word for it.
Springtime allergy season typically arrives either early or late April in this part of the country, but the unusually mild winter might means an early beginning to stuffy noses and itchy eyes. And now is the perfect time to address issues that might not surface until after the vernal equinox .
According to Finch Drug Store Pharmacist Barbara-Ann Kenealy, more and more people are coming in with allergy issues.
"We've been handing out more allergy medicines and the doctors have been prescribing more," Kenealy said. "People come in thinking they have a cold and when it lingers they realize they have a sinus infection or some other kind of allergic reaction."
Kenealy added that things like eye drops are also selling fast as well.
"People come in with dry eyes," Kenealy said. "I'm nervous for the spring. If it's like this now I wonder what it'll be like when the weather really gets warm."
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.
Allergic reactions are the body's response to an invasion. When your interior sentries detect foreign substances (antigens), the immune system is triggered. Its antibodies attack the allergen, which leads to the release of histamines , which trigger allergic symptoms.
Allergens responsible for early spring afflictions begin with tree pollens, which are released when young buds develop into leaves. Pollens typically and this winter has been far from typical become a factor around the beginning of April and grass pollens follow around mid-May.
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.
In addition to congestion and coughing, allergy symptoms can include sneezing, itchy and/or watery eyes runny nose and postnasal drip, sinus pain (headaches, congestion) and itchy, stuffy ears. But allergy symptoms can also manifest as eczema, hives and other skin rashes.
Sufferers with intermittent or occasional symptoms should consider seeking relief from over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, salt-water nasal rinses and eye drops. If symptoms are more persistent -- and if they interfere with regular activities or quality of life sufferers should see an allergist.
But steering clear of the irritants that affect you is the best line of defense against symptoms. In other words, don't bring the outdoors indoors with you. Wiping your feet before walking into a house so you don't track pollen in with you is a good start and immediately taking off and washing clothes is also helpful in reducing allergens, as is closing windows when the pollen count is particularly high.
When over the counter medication and household mitigation aren't keeping the antigens at bay, among the treatments available to allergy are pre-seasonal allergy drops, a form of immunotherapy wherein drops of allergen extracts are placed under the tongue. Like standard allergy shots, such courses of action can treat acute symptoms, as well as prevent further recurrences of allergies.
Before your wave your white tissue in surrender to allergies, take action. Then, think spring.
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