Allergies are no fun. Seasonal allergies affect millions of Americans every year, and I am one of those unlucky folks. Impacts can range from a few sniffles up to an extreme case of a trip to the E.R. Basically as the length of day increases and the temperatures increase, the trees release their pollen so that they can get the seeds to germinate and sprout. As the soil temperatures get warmer the vegetation becomes more active. Eventually in the Spring, the grass pollen also starts to contribute. That has already started in Hampton Roads.
Along with pollen from vegetation, people can be allergic to all kinds of things. Pets, dust, certain foods, and even some insects are examples. The problem is that during this time of year many different allergens are coming at you from all directions. So if you have a mild allergy to mold, then that could combine with a seasonal allergy to maple pollen for example. There are a lot of ways to try to combat those allergies. Here are some tips:
1. Clean often! Vacuum your home a couple of times a week. You should also dust often to get that pollen and dust off of the surfaces. You can also vacuum out your air vents if you want to try to go the extra mile. But the payoff may not last long as more pollen will enter the air ducts quickly. Don’t forget to clean or change the filter in your vacuum cleaner.
2. Keep your windows closed. This goes for your home and your car. Homes are not air tight, and also pollen drifts in as you open your doors. So keep the house closed up as much as possible. Window screens may help block a little pollen, but it really is small enough to fit right through the mesh.
3. You should run your air conditioner or even just your fan on your A.C. Your unit should have a filter on it that will help take out some of the pollen. You should change the filter a couple of times a month if you have bad allergies. Changing it once a month is normal. There are special filters that block even small particles, but I’ve had A.C. repairmen tell me that those are not good for your unit as it reduces the flow. If you want to try it, then give one a call and ask a specialist. You should also get your cabin air filter for your vehicle changed if you haven’t in a while. Warning… it can get a little pricey, and not all vehicles have cabin filters.
4. There are many plug-in air filter systems for your home. Be careful though. Some are very expensive, and some do not work that well at all. Some have filters that you can re-use and clean, but there are others that you have to buy. So do your homework. I’ve had 2 filters in the past and both have been disappointments, but there are others that swear by them.
5. Wash your bedding often. If you don’t want to keep doing laundry during the week, you can use or buy another set. Then just swap it out until you have time to wash again. Wash the items in hot water to kill dust mites if you can. Careful! Some delicate fabrics can’t be washed in hot water.
6. There are many over the counter medications to help with allergies. Products with antihistamines will help. There are nasal sprays which can help to either clear sinuses and/or medicate the nasal area. There are eye drops that help with itchy red eyes. I have one with an antihistamine in it that really helps, but it does sting a little at first. Finally, there are many pills that you can also buy. Read the instructions carefully. There are some that can make you very drowsy. Many medications are not to be used for young children. If you do have young ones that are really suffering, then call your pediatrician. You can also go so far as to get tested for allergies. I got tested, and found that I was allergic to several things. Just know though that the process involves numerous tiny shots. And I mean numerous. The doctor has several prescriptions that can help. It’s also possible to get special allergy shots for the really bad sufferers. I still haven’t opted for this just yet.
7. Even if you are not allergic to your pets, their fur can still collect pollen from trees, dust, etc. So it’s good to groom your pets. Believe it or not, house pets can also suffer from allergies. So monitor them if they become overly itchy this time of year.
8. There are food allergies (i.e. nuts/shellfish), however there are also some foods that can act as mild allergens that can cross-react with the pollen. Bananas and some melons, for instance, can impact your allergies. Keep in mind that even if you are fine during the year, it can be a small addition to the seasonal allergens this time of year. Here’s a great link to a site that lists some of the foods and allergies: Food List
9. Dry clothes indoors. It may help with energy consumption, but drying clothes on a clothesline will be a pollen magnet during the next few weeks.
10. You may have cleaned your floors and carpets, but you’ll continue to track in pollen unless you clean off your doorsteps, patios, and walkways. I recommend a hose as a broom will stir up the dust/pollen.
11. Some folks have recommended eating local honey during the year. They say that it helps the body build up an immunity to pollen. I did try it this year, and it didn’t seem to work. But there are some who swear by it. It might be a little late this year, but it’s a thought for next year.
Pollen is a complicated thing to forecast. There are the weather conditions. Temperatures, pressure, humidity, and wind all play a role. Pollen can blow in from other sources. Rain can wash out pollen, but only if it lasts for a long period of time. I’ve actually noticed that trees and plants love to get water. So they will sometimes launch heavy pollen several hours after a rain shower. It’s even tougher in this area as there are no proxy data. To my knowledge there is no group or department that takes the local pollen count. Some local health departments used to take a reading, but they stopped due to budget cuts and/or other reasons. The closest readings are in Richmond and Raleigh. So I use myself and others as a barometer on many days. The forecast today is a 10 out of 12. Tree pollens are the main culprits, but grass is starting to contribute. Good luck with the allergies, and feel free to comment with your own tip below.
As far as weather goes…We may see a few showers and storms this afternoon, but they will be scattered. I’ll write more about weather in tomorrow’s blog. This includes the big cold front for this weekend.
Meteorologist: Jeremy Wheeler