colour, picnics, blossoms – these are just some of the reasons why most people
love spring. Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, this tends to be a miserable
time of the year.
ends and blossoms appear, asthma, hay-fever, allergic conjunctivitis and even
eczema begin to flare up”, says Dr Nicola Rains, a general practitioner at NHC
Health Centres (note to editors: please refer to company as indicated).
are particularly severe in spring due to the increased amount of pollen in the
air. Pollen is typically found in trees from early August, grass from October
to January and flowers later in summer. Since pollen grains are airborne, they
are easily inhaled, and could also possibly land in the eyes.
are not only caused by pollen. Pets, dust-mites, foods, moulds, room fresheners
are also triggers of allergic reactions.
to the Allergy Society of South Africa, up to 20% of South Africans suffer from
allergic reactions, with those living in the Highveld particularly prone to
Some of the
symptoms of spring allergies include sneezing, wheezing, nasal congestion,
runny nose, and watery, red or itchy eyes, headaches and coughing.
Rains: “Unfortunately it is impossible to fully protect yourself against
exposure to pollen, especially with the types of outdoor activities that people
engage in during the warm seasons. However, there are a few things that you can
do to minimise exposure”.
is when pollen levels in the air are at their highest. During this time make
sure you stay away from densely planted areas. Also stay clear during hot humid
weather especially after thunderstorms, rainfall contributes to a rise in
pollen spore counts in the grass/plants. Staying indoors on windy days, keeping
the car and bedroom windows closed, recycling car air whilst driving, and
having a filter in your air-conditioning system will also help”.
If you are
going to work in the garden, you could wear a dust mask or wet handkerchief
over your mouth and nose. You could also avoid hanging washing outdoors on
windy days and refrain from keeping flowers indoors.
If you are
sending flowers to an allergic individual, refrain from choosing allergenic
flowers which predominantly include wind-pollinated, darker-coloured plants.
These flowers are usually not scented or include nectar. Brighter-coloured
flowers depend on insects to carry their pollen to another flower for
cross-pollination; therefore their pollen is heavy and is usually not found in
the air. The brighter the flower the less-likely it is to cause allergies.
is better than cure, but if you do experience symptoms associated with spring
allergies, there is medical treatment available for relief,” says Dr Rains.
and decongestants are the best treatments for spring allergy symptoms, but they
will not cure your allergies. Antihistamines target the chemical called
histamine, which your body makes when you have an allergic reaction.
are available in pill form and are useful for relieving your sneezing, itchy
and runny nose. Topical corticosteroids in the form of a nasal spray are the
most effective maintenance therapy for intermittent and persistent allergic
rhinitis. These should be started 2 weeks before the onset of the season and
continued until it is over.
conjunctivitis may respond to anti-allergy eye drops but if the redness or
irritation persists beyond 48 hours, it is best to seek medical attention.
way to investigate the triggers of these symptoms is a simple skin patch
allergy test for inhalants which is requested by your doctor. The laboratory
typically use allergens, such as pollen, cat/dog hair, and apply it to the
outer layer of your skin, and will then check for any reactions at 72 hours“, explains Dr Rains.
loves spring because this is the time when we get do to the outdoor activities
that we enjoy. For allergy sufferers, this does not mean they should hide
themselves indoors. Being aware of your environment, taking necessary
precautions when outside and making sure you have medical treatment on hand –
will help make your springs days a little easier”, says Dr Rains.