CareNow® - April 19, 2019

Most people can't wait for winter to be over with and spring to begin—until their allergies hit. Once the coughing, sneezing, wheezing and itching settle in, springtime can be miserable.

Learning about seasonal allergies can help you minimize the symptoms so you can enjoy the beautiful weather of the season.

What Are Environmental Allergies?

Whenever your immune system responds to triggers in your surroundings that are normally harmless, it is considered environmental allergies. While symptoms can vary from person to person, environmental allergies typically result in sneezing, coughing and fatigue.

Dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold and cigarette smoke are all common environmental allergens.

Can Urgent Care Treat Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

Most of the time, seasonal allergy symptoms can be treated at an urgent care clinic, such as CareNow®, as long as your allergy symptoms are mild to moderate and aren’t making it hard for you to breathe.

Here, a physician or physician’s assistant will examine you and most likely prescribe an antihistamine.

Can Allergies Cause Sneezing and Coughing?

person sneezing

It’s common for allergies to cause sneezing and coughing. If either is because of seasonal allergies, you’ll notice that the sneezing or coughing begin in response to a change in the season.

With sneezing or coughing caused by environmental allergies, it’s normal to react in certain places, such as around cats, but feel fine in others, like in the office.

If you’re struggling with sneezing or coughing caused by allergies, consider an over-the-counter allergy medication for some relief.

Can Allergies Cause a Fever?

Anytime you become congested, no matter the cause, it leaves you at risk for a bacterial infection. When this occurs, it can result in a fever that lasts for days. If you develop congestion, it can be difficult to identify the cause, since sinusitis, allergies or even the flu virus may be behind it.

Knowing the cause of your symptoms can help you begin an effective treatment plan quickly.

Can Allergies Cause a Sore Throat?

Postnasal drip is the main reason allergies cause a sore throat. When congestion in the sinuses drains down the throat, it can cause tickling or scratchy pain. This can also result in coughing, excessive swallowing, throat irritation and difficulty speaking.

If you tend to suffer from allergy symptoms year-round, you will likely notice your symptoms getting worse during seasons of high airborne irritants.

Red Eyes from Allergies

Another common symptom of allergies is red, itchy, watery eyes, caused by the same irritants that cause sneezing and a runny nose. Eye allergies, in some cases, can even lead to pinkeye and other eye infections.

Sometimes, eye allergies can be a result of a reaction to eye drops or certain cosmetics. If you suspect either of these could be the cause of your irritated eyes, stop using the products.

Can Allergies Cause Headaches?

person blowing their nose

When your sinuses get inflamed, it leads to the buildup of fluid, which causes pressure to heighten around your forehead, nose and eyes, resulting in a sinus headache. It’s often accompanied by a cough, sore throat or stuffed nasal passages.

Persistent symptoms with purulent and postnasal drainage could be signs of a sinus infection. Your doctor then may prescribe antibiotics.

Can Seasonal Allergies Cause a Rash?

Seasonal allergies can cause more than one type of rash.

  • Allergic contact dermatitis causes a rash that is usually red, swollen, bumpy or scaly, and very itchy. It can occur when you touch a triggering substance.
  • Hives are red raised bumps that occur with some swelling. They are also very itchy.
  • Eczema tends to be more chronic in nature. It can be red, itchy or painful and look or feel dry and scaly. Identifying the triggers of eczema can be difficult, as factors like stress and dry skin can cause flare-ups.

What Is Hay Fever?

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis or nasal allergies, can be seasonal or year-round. It occurs when the nose is irritated or inflamed. Common triggers include pollen, mold or fungi, pet fur or dander, dust mites, cigarette smoke, and perfume.

Typically, hay fever begins right after exposure to an allergen and lasts for as long as you’re exposed.

Can Hay Fever Be Dangerous?

If you’re suffering from hay fever, you’ll likely experience a runny nose with thin, watery discharge. A fever is very unlikely.

Hay fever symptoms are rarely dangerous. However, if your symptoms last more than a week, occur year-round or exacerbate an existing condition, such as asthma, you should see a doctor.

What Is Anaphylactic Shock?

woman giving herself a shot for anaphylactic shock

The most serious type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock.

This dangerous reaction occurs when your body releases chemicals that cause your airways to narrow, blocking your breathing and dropping your blood pressure. It can happen very fast and requires immediate medical attention.

Why Does Anaphylactic Shock Require an ER Visit?

Symptoms of an anaphylactic shock worsen quickly and include fast heartbeat, fainting, vomiting, hives, swelling of the face, and swelling of the airways, making it difficult to breathe. If you or someone you know is having symptoms of anaphylactic shock, call 911 immediately.

For someone who has suffered from anaphylaxis in the past, a doctor may prescribe an emergency epinephrine injection. This shot can save a person’s life by stopping the allergic reaction.

Once the epinephrine shot has been given, symptoms usually improve—or even resolve completely. However, even if symptoms improve, a trip to the emergency room is still mandatory for follow-up care.

While an urgent care clinic can treat minor allergic reactions, like minor food allergies or skin rashes, severe reactions like anaphylaxis require an ER visit.

How to Avoid Pollen

woman on her couch blowing her nose

One of the best ways to prevent seasonal allergies is to avoid the allergens completely or at least as much as possible.

  • Stay indoors

    First and foremost, stay inside when pollen counts are high. What time are pollen levels highest? Usually, it’s between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but different days have different counts. Local weather stations usually provide pollen counts at the start of each day. Plan your activities around these counts as much as possible.

  • Keep allergens out of your home

    Reduce your exposure to allergens by keeping windows and doors closed. Run the air conditioner or furnace to stay comfortable. Running your HVAC system also helps rid the air of irritating contaminants as it passes through the system’s filter.

When is Ragweed Season?

It is possible for ragweed pollen to be detected as early as mid to late July in some areas; however, most ragweed blooms occur in mid-August.

Pollen levels tend to peak around early September, ending when the first hard frost occurs. Levels tend to be low for several weeks prior to the first frost, however.

Check the Pollen Count Forecast in your Area

If there is an especially large amount of pollen in the air that day, it is considered a high pollen count.

You can typically see the pollen count on any given day (or week) by checking allergy websites and most local weather reports. For allergy suffers, these can be invaluable resources.

What Else Helps Relieve Pollen Allergies?

After spending time outside, it’s a good idea to wash your face and hands, and consider taking a shower and changing into fresh clothes to prevent tracking pollen indoors. Even if you decide not to shower right away, it’s wise to shower before going to sleep to keep pollen out of your bed.

Finally, while it can’t provide 100 percent protection against seasonal allergies, wearing a surgical mask can help to reduce your exposure when gardening, mowing the lawn and performing other outdoor activities.

What are Mold Allergies?

Mold allergies—when someone is allergic to the spores of molds or other fungi—tend to occur over several seasons. For many people, inhaling the spores can cause allergic reactions.

Typically, allergic symptoms from fungus spores are most common from July to early fall, but allergic reactions can happen year-round since fungi grow in many places. While many types of molds exist, there are really only a few dozen that cause allergic reactions.

Symptoms of a mold allergy include sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion, and dry, scaling skin. To reduce mold in your home, consider using bleach to keep your home mold-free or hire a mold cleanup crew.

Reduce Humidity in Your Home

One surefire way to reduce mold allergies is to lower the indoor humidity in your home. Because fungi tend to thrive in indoor humidity that is above 50 percent, it’s a good idea to keep your home’s humidity below 45 percent or even at 35 percent—which is considered ideal.

If you use a dehumidifier, make sure to clean the fluid reservoir regularly, at least twice a week, to keep mold from growing.

Consider Using HEPA Filters

Having a HEPA filter attached to your central air-conditioning system can help seasonal allergies immensely. If you don’t have central air, a free-standing air cleaner placed in key rooms, such as the bedroom and family room, can work.

It’s important to change the filter at least every three months, and make sure to have your heat- and air-conditioning units inspected every six months.

Pet Dander Allergies

For many people, pet dander is the cause of their allergies. The proteins that cause the allergies can be found in the saliva of the animal, dander (dead skin flakes) and urine.

Any pet with fur can be a carrier of these proteins. In fact, even dogs and cats that are considered hypoallergenic can cause just as many symptoms as nonhypoallergenic animals.

One of the best ways to relieve your allergy symptoms is to keep pets away from your bedroom.

Grooming also helps alleviate symptoms. You can increase the frequency of your pet’s baths and ask someone in your home who isn’t allergic to groom your pet daily using a comb dipped in distilled water. This will help trap the dander.

Consider Allergy Shots for Seasonal Allergies

Allergy shots can be an effective way to treat long-term seasonal allergies when symptoms become too uncomfortable and over-the-counter remedies seem less effective.

While CareNow® doesn’t offer allergy shots, the staff at any of the clinics can refer you to a nearby allergy specialist who does provide this service.

What is a Dust Mites Allergy?

Dust mites are microscopic bugs that typically live in house dust, and they can cause allergic reactions. Symptoms of dust mite allergies are similar to hay fever and include sneezing; runny nose; itchy, red or watery eyes; nasal congestion; postnasal drip; cough; and facial pressure and pain.

It is common to also experience symptoms of asthma, like wheezing and trouble breathing.

What are Dust Mites?

Dust mites eat skin cells that are shed by people. They thrive in warm, humid environments, such as bedding, upholstered furniture and carpeting. While it’s nearly impossible to kill them, there are things you can do to prevent them.

Preventive measures include using allergen-proof bedcovers, washing your bedding weekly, keeping the humidity low in your home, dusting and vacuuming regularly, eliminating dust-collecting clutter, installing tile or hardwood floors in your home, avoiding bedcovers that easily trap dust and buying stuffed toys that can be washed.

Is It Allergies or Asthma?

Allergies and asthma tend to occur together since the same substances that cause allergies (pollen, dust mites and pet dander) also cause asthma.

There are other types of asthma that have different triggers, including exercise, infections, cold air, gastroesophageal reflux disease or even stress.

Common asthma symptoms include shortness of breath, tightness or pain in the chest, difficulty sleeping, a wheezing sound when breathing, and coughing or wheezing attacks worsened by a respiratory virus.

Is It Allergies or a Cold?

It can be difficult to tell allergies and a cold apart since they have many of the same symptoms. The easiest way to tell what’s ailing you is by looking for the symptoms that the two don’t share.

Typically, a cold causes fatigue, aches and pains, a sore throat, and a fever, while allergies are more likely to cause itchy eyes, wheezing and skin rashes.

Is It an Allergy or Something Else?

If you’re suffering from allergy-like symptoms, consider visiting your local CareNow®. The healthcare providers can treatment your symptoms and, if needed, recommend an allergy specialist.

Open after hours, on the weekend and most holidays, CareNow® physicians and nurses are well trained in urgent care services. We accept most insurance plans and offer Web Check-In® so you can avoid the waiting room.

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Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.