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The truth about spring allergies

Spring may have arrived a bit late this year with harsh weather piercing into typical warmer months. Spring allergies, though, should be right on schedule as the erratic temperatures will begin to normalize this week.

As the season changes, pollen counts will increase. If you aren't used to these environmental fluctuations or if you already know you suffer from spring allergies, you should begin taking allergy medications now.

Here are additional facts you should know.

Who does it affect?

Everybody is susceptible to having allergies, but they don't usually affect very young children or the elderly as often. Typical symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and itchy throat and eyes.

Fevers can be a good gauge as to whether or not allergies are affecting you or if it's something more serious.

Allergies are not contagious, so if others around you are sick, and you are not, your symptoms likely allergies.

What can you do?

Simple things. If you know what you're allergic to, avoid it. However, it's impossible to completely avoid pollens. So, you should:

  • Take showers at night.
  • Leave your windows down when pollen counts are high, especially before 10 a.m.
  • Choose the right time for outdoor activities. If you are going for a three-mile run, go at 6 p.m. Allergies tend to be worse in the morning.
  • Regularly wash your hands and face, including when you are in contact with pollen.
  • Wear glasses if you have symptoms affecting your eyes.

Take over-the-counter medications to slow and halt symptoms. Antihistamines, eye drops and nasal sprays will help.

Spring allergy myths

Like anything, there are facts and rumors for spring allergies.

  1. Honey and other home remedies: A lot of people think that when you have spring allergies, using simple things like honey and other home remedies will improve symptoms. Typically honey that's processed is not going to help you. Some case studies have shown that honey might theoretically be of benefit, until pollination occurs. Other home remedies such as sipping apple cider vinegar and eating spicing food are not terribly helpful.
  2. Cold vs. allergies: Oftentimes, people mistake a cold or other illnesses as allergies. Not every symptom similar to a cold will be allergies. Look at other factors causing symptoms.
  3. Can food make allergies worse?: No. Food allergies present differently. However, there are some people who will get a mild itchy mouth, tongue or throat when eating fresh fruits or vegetables in the spring pollen season. This often improves when the foods are cooked and is most often due to their sensitization (allergy) to pollens.

Punita Ponda, MD, is assistant chief of allergy and immunology at Northwell Health and an assistant professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

"As the season changes, pollen counts will increase. If you aren’t used to these environmental fluctuations or if you already know you suffer from spring allergies, you should begin taking allergy medications now."
— Punita Ponda, MD
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