This past weekend, the trees on Wellesley’s campus exploded with beautiful color. The cherry blossom trees have treated us once again to their delicate pink flowers, and the deciduous trees have grown small green buds promising a colorful and lively spring. However, the blossoming beauty that has arrived at our campus also brings with it sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, runny noses and coughing for many students.
Spring allergies, also known as hay fever, affects over 8 percent of American adults (20 million), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These allergies are caused when trees, grasses and weeds release pollen into the air to fertilize other plants. When people who are allergic to these pollens breathe in the particles, their immune systems release antibodies to attack the supposed dangerous particles. This release of antibodies causes histamines to be released into the blood which triggers the classic symptoms of allergies such as itchy eyes and a runny nose.
So while the burst of color on campus after winter’s dreary grey is often a welcome sight, it is dreaded by many who experience spring allergies. Fortunately, there are a few steps that can be taken to both prevent and treat these symptoms as much as possible.
To prevent symptoms before they even begin, make sure you are aware of the pollen counts each day. Local weather forecasts display daily pollen counts as well as what types of pollen are particularly high, which is helpful if you know what type of pollen you are allergic to. When these counts are high, it is recommended to stay indoors as much as possible to help manage symptoms. However, if you must go outside to get to class and org meetings, pollen levels are much higher in the morning so try to go outside later in the day. It is also helpful to vacuum and dust your dorm room frequently. Pollen can come in through windows and be tracked in on your clothes to settle onto surfaces in your room, so it’s best to manage this pollen accumulation as much as possible. Finally, your body and hair also collect large amounts of pollen during the day. To ensure a good night sleep, shower before you go to bed to rid your body of pollen.
When the symptoms fully set in and you’ve done everything you can to prevent them, there are treatment options available to help. Oral antihistamines are medications that work by suppressing the histamine released by your body to fight the pollen. These over-the-counter medications are available at all drug stores. The most popular brands are Zyrtec and Claritin, but make sure it does not conflict with any medication you are currently taking. Nasal decongestants are also available without a prescription and offer short-term relief from stuffy and runny noses. These decongestants are available in pill form as well as liquid and spray applications and work by reducing the swelling and production of mucus in nasal passages. Eye drops also provide relief from itchy, watery eyes and are available at all drug stores. A popular non-medication way of dealing with stuffy noses are neti pots, which is used to flush or rinse the sinuses and nasal passages with warm sterile water and a mixture of salt or baking soda. Taking these medications before symptoms even start makes them even more effective at treating symptoms when they do arise.
While spring allergies can be annoying, these steps can help you still enjoy the warmer weather without worrying about how your body will react. It is important to be proactive and take preventative steps to ensure an enjoyable, active spring.