Commonly Asked Questions - Allergies

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Q: What causes allergies to flare up in the spring?
A: Pollen is the most common trigger to allergy flares in the spring.
 Your immune system identifies pollen released by various plants as potentially harmful and responds in the form of allergic reaction symptoms. Trees, grass, mold, and weeds release pollen at about the same time every year. Trees are usually the first plants to release pollen, usually in the early spring. Grasses come next in the spring and early summer. Mold spores begin to appear after a spring thaw and reach their peak late summer-early fall. Weeds generally release their pollen in late summer and fall.

Q: How can you tell whether you have allergies or just a cold?
Typically, allergies last longer than a cold. Sneezing and itchy, watery eyes are more frequently associated with an allergy rather than a cold. If you notice a pattern in which you suffer the same symptoms at the same time year after year, you are likely suffering from allergies. A fever is also indicative of a cold. At times, it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between seasonal allergies and common cold symptoms. Skin test can help determine allergy symptoms.

Q: What is a skin test? How does it work? 
A: A skin test detects the presence of antibodies to a particular allergen, a substance that causes an allergic reaction. The test is performed by placing a drop of an allergen extract on the skin then pricking the skin with a scratch device. If you have a positive reaction, a red welt will appear on your skin in about 20 minutes. The size of the welt indicates the strength of the reaction. If you do not react to the extract you are most likely not allergic to the substance.

Q: What can influence the severity of the allergy season?
A: Weather can influence the timing and severity of the season. A mild winter often leads to a more severe pollen season. The grass season varies the most. If the spring is warmer and wetter than usual, that can provoke more grass to grow earlier, leading to a more severe season during the late spring and summer.

Tips on managing your allergies:

  • Keeping your windows closed and using air conditioning even on days that are not extremely warm can keep pollen outdoors.
  • Avoid outdoor activities during the peak pollen times of day. Pollination is most significant midmorning through after lunch. As these pollination patterns vary by location weather humidity etc.
  • Take a shower after spending time outside; a shower washes off the pollen that can stick on your skin or in your hair.
  • Talk to your doctor to decide what medications are best for you.
  • If avoidance and medications fail to control your symptoms talk to your doctor about other options. Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, can usually help.

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