February 24, 2017

Spring allergies may be worse in the South


Hay fever can pose more of a challenge in Southern cities. Here’s why and what to do about it.

Have you heard friends or family say their cities are among of the worst for allergies? If they live in the South, they may be speaking some truth.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America named McAllen, Texas, as the most challenging place to live with spring allergies for 2018; rounding out the rest of the Top 5: Louisville, Kentucky; Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis, Tennessee; and San Antonio, Texas. Nashville is ranked “average” at No. 54, but lots of Southern cities are at the top of the list.

The foundation measures metro areas for pollen scores, allergy medicine use and number of allergists per person. While pollen load does not directly relate to the number of people with allergies, the South does have a longer growing season.

Tree pollen season in the mid-South runs February through late April. Grass pollen joins the mix in early April. With this overlap you can get a double effect. That can make Easter and Mother’s Day tough for a lot of people.

You could try escaping to a low-pollen city in Alaska. Unfortunately, they just have different allergy triggers and your genes will follow you. Seasonal allergies result from both exposure to allergens and your genes. Having one parent with allergies gives you about a 50-50 chance of also having allergies. The risk percentage goes even higher if both parents have allergies.

It seems our genes and geography are against us. Before accepting seasonal itchy eyes and sneezing, try these five tips for hay fever treatment.

1. Stay inside when pollen counts are high.

If you’re wondering how to relieve hay fever symptoms, one of the best things you can do is avoid pollen altogether. Keep the windows closed and try pollen-rated filters for your home’s heating and air system. See national pollen count maps to stay informed.

2. If you go outside, change your clothes when you get back inside.

Wear a mask if you’re kicking up a lot of pollen in the yard when mowing or gardening. You should also bathe and wash your hair before bed.

3. Try over-the-counter or prescription medicines.

You may find relief with nasal corticosteroid sprays. Start them early because steroid sprays can take days or up to two weeks to begin relieving symptoms. Antihistamines also work best if you time them before symptoms are likely to occur. The FDA approved a 24-hour allergy tablet and liquid for over-the-counter use for hay fever. If you have questions about these medications, read and follow the directions and talk to your doctor.

4. Try a saline nasal rinse.

One easy remedy for hay fever is a saline rinse. You may find relief with one of the salt water rinse bottles or nasal irrigators  from the drug store.

5. Visit your doctor or an allergist if you haven’t found relief.

An allergist can identify your specific allergy triggers. Immunotherapy, often called allergy shots, will gradually increase your ability to tolerate allergens. You’ll be treating the cause and not just controlling the symptoms.

allergy and sinus

Considering allergy shots or getting tested for allergies? Visit the Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program for an evaluation and the most up-to-date treatment recommendations. Call 615-936-2727 for an appointment.

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