Late spring and early summer are the toughest times of the year for many patients suffering from grass allergies and hay fever. Grasses and plants release grains of pollen to fertilize other plants, but many people struggle with allergic reactions to these pollens. These cause uncomfortable symptoms including: a runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, and red, watery eyes.
Allergies affect more than 50 million Americans each year according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is the most common form, causing discomfort for millions of people across the country.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple steps you can take to reduce the impact of hay fever and seasonal allergies. Speaking to HealthDay News, Joseph Cooke, MD, chair of the department of medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Queens, advised: "Allergy sufferers should pay attention to the pollen index, use vacuums designed to better pick up common irritants, and close their windows when the pollen count is high."
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has also suggested a number of measures to prevent and limit the impact of allergies to grass during the summer months.
When going outdoors:
- Check the pollen count and avoid outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.
- Keep the lawn cut short or get someone else to do the mowing.
- Wipe furry pets with a towel before allowing them to enter or reenter the home.
- In the home:
- Keep windows closed in the car and house and use air conditioning with a HEPA filter.
- Bath and wash hair before bed to remove pollen from your hair and skin.
- Wash bedding at least once a week.
- Wear long pants if in contact with grass.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat when outside to keep pollen out of the eyes and hair.
- Change clothes worn outside when you come back in the house to prevent the spread of allergens.
- Use a clothes dryer rather than hanging washing on the line outside.
The organization also recommended starting allergy treatments to reduce the symptoms of hay fever and grass pollen allergies. There are many over-the-counter therapies to ease the symptoms of allergies. Antihistamines such as Zyrtec (cetirizine), decongestants and corticosteroids such as Flovent HFA (fluticasone propionate) often provide effective relief from hay fever and other allergies.
Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT) administered by the doctor may also be used build up a patient's tolerance to allergens when medication proves ineffective. Allergy tablets (sublingual immunotherapy SLIT) offer a needle-free alternative and can be administered by patients in their own home.