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Emory allergist: 10 tips to help survive spring pollen

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Jennifer Johnson McEwen
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Emory's Dr. Marissa Shams answers 7 common allergy questions.

1) What does it mean to have an allergy? 2) How are asthma and allergy related? 3) What’s the best way to keep allergies from flaring? 4) Which season is worst for my allergies? 5) What does allergy testing involve? 6) How do allergy shots work? 7) What should I do if I think I’m allergic to something?

ATLANTA - The spring allergy season is in full swing, the warm weather is leading to rising pollen counts across the region, and more people are participating in outdoor activities.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is often caused by tree pollen in the early spring, grass pollen in the late spring and early summer and weed pollen in the late summer and fall.

Emory Healthcare allergist Marissa Shams, MD, offers her top tips on how to battle the pollen and breathe a little easier. Shams is an assistant professor of medicine in the Emory University School of Medicine.

Top 10 ways to survive Spring pollen season:

  1. Regularly check your local pollen counts - Pollen counts reflect the amount of pollen grains in the air at any given time. Find local counts from the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.
  2. Limit time outside - On warm and windy days when pollen counts are the highest, try to stay indoors. Severe allergy symptoms are less common on rainy, cloudy or windless days.

  3. At home - Avoid opening windows at home to “air out the house.” Do not rely on window screens to keep pollens out. Use air conditioning (AC), which helps clean, cool and dry the air.

  4. Traveling by car - Keep your car windows and sunroof closed and use the AC to minimize pollen exposure.

  5. Yard work - Take caution when performing yard work. Mowing the grass or raking leaves are two activities that stir up lots of pollen and should be kept to a minimum if you have allergies.

  6. Wear a pollen mask if you have severe allergy symptoms and must be outdoors for long periods of time. Many masks, including dust and surgical masks, will not offer adequate protection, so make sure you do your research to find an N-95 filter mask or another medical grade option.

  7. Coming in from outside - Change your clothes and place them in the washing machine. Wash your hands, nose and face or, if possible, take a shower.

  8. Asthma medication - If diagnosed with asthma; make sure to carry your rescue inhaler for sudden respiratory symptoms.

  9. Over-the-counter medications – When you need fast relief from a runny nose or itchy eyes, drugstore medications can help. Follow directions carefully and make sure you are properly using your nasal spray as demonstrated here.

  10. Consult with a local allergist for further treatment - An allergist can help control your symptoms through a variety of treatments and therapies including shots, medications and nasal sprays that may not be available at your local drugstore. They can also help identify what you’re allergic to and help educate you on how to best remedy your environment and eliminate or minimize your exposure to environmental allergens.

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