Understanding Spring Allergies

With a wave of warm weather this week, spring seems to have sprung. All of the warm weather this time of year is welcomed by all, but that also comes with a bit of a downside. Spring is synonymous with pollen and allergy season. This is the time of year when you may need to wipe yellow powder off your car or pack a set of tissues on your outdoor adventures. These allergies are quite common. It is estimated that up to forty percent of people under the age of eighteen have seasonal allergies, and scientists say that the dreaded window of allergies has begun this year. 

Where does pollen even come from anyway? Pollen is plant material used to fertilize created in the stamen of flowers and other plants. Any seed bearing plant produces pollen, even trees. When the weather begins to become warmer in the spring months, pollen begins to be released, and the powdery material becomes airborne, spreading with the wind. North Carolina is the land of the pines, so it’s no surprise we get bombarded with pollen every year from our grand pine and oak trees. 

This process is great for the plant’s cycle of life but not so much for humans. With excess pollen being released it can be inhaled into the body through the nose or mouth. The body sees pollen as an attack and triggers the defense powers of the immune system. It releases histamines into the blood, which is a chemical released by white blood cells. Histamines are what cause allergy symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes. 

If you think you are falling victim to allergies, you can start with a medical diagnosis from a doctor. There are also a large amount of over the counter allergy medications on the market such as Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra. These medicines are antihistamines which lower the amount of histamines in the body, lessening symptoms. Once you conclude you have an allergy, taking these medicines as a doctor prescribes or as soon as possible can be helpful. Apex junior Kate Dickinson says, “I started taking my allergy medicine last week to try to get a head start before any pollen allergy symptoms started returning”

With medication there are also habits you can adapt to limit pollen exposure. Staying indoors during high pollen count days is one method as well as increased cleaning. Vacuuming your room and washing your bedding ensures pollen does not get built up. After spending a day outside be sure to wash your hair as allergens can collect there. If you play sports, clean your cleats or sneakers often and leave them in the garage or outside instead of in your room. 

It is no secret that allergies are disruptive, but I hope with learning a bit more about them you can enjoy these beautiful spring days with less coughing and sneezing.

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