Longer Allergy Seasons Mean More Anti-allergy Efforts, From the March 2013 Harvard Health Letter

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Allergy seasons are worsening, possibly because of climate change. Fighting back against allergy symptoms involves medications and other strategies, such as starting a nasal steroid spray weeks before the spring and possibly wearing a mask for outdoor yard work.

Cover of the March 2013 Harvard Health Letter

Although snow still blankets parts of northern states, spring allergy season is already underway in many parts of the country. It's starting earlier each year due to warmer weather patterns, reports the March 2013 Harvard Health Letter. "When winter is shorter and less severe, it means there will be pollens and molds present for a longer period of time," says Dr. Stacey Gray, an allergy expert at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

As a result, people with allergies need to be more proactive when it comes to fighting allergy symptoms. In addition to using antihistamines, nasal sprays, or decongestants, it's important to take steps to minimize exposure to allergens such as tree pollen.

Start at home. Make sure air conditioning and heating filters and vents are clean. Close windows and consider wearing a mask for outdoor yard work. Better yet, avoid going outside when pollen levels are highest. Dr. Gray also recommends using nasal saline irrigations after working in the yard or being outside for an extended time.

Certain irritants in the environment—like cigarette smoke and air pollution—can also worsen allergy symptoms. Avoiding them if possible can help. It can also be a good idea to take precautions even before allergy season hits. One strategy Dr. Gray suggests is starting a nasal steroid spray a few weeks before spring allergies begin.

Read the full-length article: "Fighting back against allergy season"

Also in the March 2013 issue of the Harvard Health Letter:

  •     Which better predicts dementia risk—brain plaque or the Alzheimer's gene?
  •     Losing weight improves sleep
  •     Taking a look at the new blood thinners

The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/health or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

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Natalie Ramm
Harvard Health Publications
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