Ester Marsh column: Fall allergy season

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 19, 2016

With the temperatures as high as they are, it doesn’t feel like fall, which starts this week. But my allergies are letting me know that fall season is here.

So what is hay fever?

No, it is not a fever and it does not happen around hay. Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, is caused by pollen or mold found in the air. Symptoms are itchy watery eyes, runny/stuffy nose, headache and sore throat. Symptoms are similar to the symptoms of the flu. Hay fever is not contagious because it is not caused by a virus. So what triggers it?

Pollen and mold are the main triggers for hay fever. That does not mean other things won’t affect you such as mildew, dust mites or pet dander. To find exactly what triggers your issues, get tested by an allergist to determine the cause. Your primary doctor can steer you in the right direction.

So what can we do to minimize our symptoms?

• Stay inside when the pollen count is high. Right now, ragweed is the highest, typically the worst from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. If you do need to go outside, wear a medical mask or dust mask, especially when doing yard work.

• Keep your windows closed to keep the pollen and dust out of your house.

• Run a dehumidifier— it takes the moisture out of the air and cuts the growth of mold.

• Run a HEPA filter in the part of your house where you spend a lot of your time. It will filter the air of pollen and other irritants.

• If you have pets that live in your home, give them a weekly bath. Pet dander will aggravate your hay fever and they will bring lots of pollen in the house on their coats.

• Do not dry your laundry outside during this time. Pollen will attach to laundry hanging to dry.

• If you smoke, try to quit. Your respiratory tract is already irritated from smoking so hay fever season will only aggravate it more.

If I do get hay fever, what can I do about it?

• Over the counter allergy medicines and decongestants can work. Check with your primary physician first to make sure you don’t have any other health issues disguised as hay fever. If you take other medications, you need to check to see if they will interfere with allergy medications.

• Decrease your stress. Studies have shown increased stress increased hay fever symptoms. Decreased stress decreased the hay fever symptoms.

• Exercise — but not outside. If you do want to exercise outside (like myself), do it in the early evening or after a rain. 

• Eat well — a healthy diet has shown to decrease the symptoms of hay fever especially when vitamin C is increased.

• Cut down on alcohol — it increases our sensitivity to pollen and dehydrates our body, making the symptoms worse.

• Sleep well. People with 8 hours of sleep per night show fewer symptoms than people who sleep 5 to 6 or less hours per night.

Not taking care of your symptoms can lead to sinus headaches and sinus infections.

Other home remedies can be:

• Hot broth to speed up the flow of mucus, especially when it contains onion, garlic, cayenne, pepper or horseradish.

• Vapors of eucalyptus leaves also help clear the head quickly. Place leaves in pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and place a towel over your head covering the pot, breathe in the vapors. Be careful not to be too close and scald your face.

• A saltwater rinse for the nose. (You can buy these over the counter or you can find the “recipe” online.) Salty water pulls fluid out of the swollen membranes of our nose which decongests the nose and makes breathing easier.

Hopefully, this fall season will not be too bad for allergies, but looking at mine already I think it will be wicked. Especially with the drought right now. However, I believe it but with some extra precautions mentioned above, I hope we all will manage to get through without too many issues!

Ester H Marsh, Associate executive Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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