An estimated 40 million Americans have indoor/outdoor allergies. And according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies account for more than 17 million outpatient doctor’s office visits each year.
This year, though, may be worse than usual for allergy sufferers, say allergy experts, who are blaming it on the polar vortex. In a March 28 report by CNN.com, allergy experts said that record snowfall in some places and low temperatures lasting late into last month delayed the flowering of trees. And as temperatures start to warm up, the trees go into blooming overdrive, trying to catch up.
Everything will be blooming at once — and allergy sufferers will pay the price.
It’s already occurring in Johnson County, said Dr. Maurice Alazar, internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne. But a lot of patients are confusing allergies with other ailments.
Allergy symptoms include sneezing, congestion, coughing, watery itchy eyes and a runny nose, Alazar said — all symptoms that can mimic those of an upper respiratory infection or a sinus infection. For someone suffering from these symptoms, he said, the first step is to see a doctor to determine if the problem is allergies or an infection, and then go from there.
Once a patient has been diagnosed with allergies, the first step in treating them is to reduce exposure to allergens.
“Close the windows in your house and in your car. Use your air conditioner, and take your medications on time,” Alazar said.
Some exposure is, of course, unavoidable, but there are some simple steps that can mitigate the impact.
“Rinsing out the nostrils with saline gets rid of the pollens that have collected there,” Alazar said.
And washing the allergens off the outside of your body helps, too. “Take your shower at night before bed instead of in the morning,” Alazar said. “Rinsing the allergies off of you before you go to bed at night keeps them from getting embedded in your bed linens and other fabrics.”