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Oliver: Achoo! Are seasonal allergies making you miserable?

Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 11:11 p.m. CDT

If you seem to be sneezing, sniffling and itching a lot this summer, you’re not alone.

For those of us who are allergy sufferers, we know too well what you’re going through.

But if the number of friends who have been asking me for advice is any indication, there may be a few more of you who are experiencing the “joy” of allergic rhinitis – aka “hay fever” – for the first time.

Maybe that harsh winter we just endured has something to do with what we’re dealing with now. The onset of spring came fast and abundantly. That means a lot of plants and a lot of pollen, which is one of the main triggers for symptoms.

Then came all the rain and humidity, setting off the growth of a number of molds, which are another trigger.

So if you’re experiencing a stuffy nose, sneezing, an itchy nose, a runny nose or itching of the roof of the mouth or ears, you just might be allergic to something. And let’s not forget itchy and watery eyes as another symptom.

A more serious condition – allergic asthma – is characterized by coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, chest tightness, and occasional fatigue and slight chest pain, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (www.aafa.org).

One way to reduce symptoms is to avoid allergy triggers. But you have to know what sets you off in order to do that. So pay attention to your surroundings. 

Do you start sneezing when you pass someone mowing a lawn? Is it particularly bad when you go into an antiques shop or old house? Does playing with the neighbor’s dog make you itchy?

If you aren’t sure, an area allergist can conduct tests to tell you. I’m allergic to just about everything that can travel through the air. So I’m dealing with this year-round.

My allergist has worked with me to get my allergies under control. And if you think you have asthma, it’s critical that you seek professional help.

For mild symptoms, over-the-counter medications can offer some relief. Just know that not everything works for every individual. There might be a period of trial and error.

For you newbies, here are a few tips to reduce your symptoms, courtesy of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (www.aaaai.org).

• Keep windows closed at night and, if possible, use air conditioning, which cleans, cools and dries the air.

• Try to stay indoors when pollen or mold counts are high. When you come in from outdoors, take a shower, shampoo your hair and change clothes.

• Avoid being responsible for mowing lawns or raking leaves. Also avoid hanging sheets or clothes outside to dry.

• When traveling in a vehicle, keep the windows closed.

• Take any medications as prescribed.

Of course, this list is far from comprehensive; it’s meant to be a starting point. If you know someone with allergies, no doubt they’ll be happy to add a few more tips to the list.

The club of allergy sufferers is one that’s no fun to join.

Here’s hoping you find some relief.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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