In the article titled “What Is Seasonal Allergies?” on this website, we introduced the subject of seasonal allergies and discussed the causes thereof. In this article, we shall discuss the allergy season (months when the risk of allergies starts to go up, up to when allergy season is over) in detail. We will then provide advice on allergen avoidance, which is the mainstay of allergy management.
A link is provided in this article, to enable you and / or your loved ones to make your living environment as allergen free as possible. For links to medications that can be used to prevent and control allergy symptoms, kindly see the article mentioned and linked above.
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WHEN DOES ALLERGY SEASON START (WHICH MONTHS ARE IMPORTANT IN TERMS OF SEASONAL ALLERGY)?
These months differ between the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. And even in one hemisphere, there are variations from region to region, and from country to country.
* Grass Pollens
The grass pollen count is highest in Summer and Autumn. This equates to October to March in the Southern Hemisphere, and April to September in the Northern Hemisphere. But the danger of grass pollen related allergy symptoms starts all the way from Spring to Autumn.
* Tree pollens
These begin to rise significantly in Late Winter and Spring, which equates to July to October in the South, and January to April in the Northern Hemisphere.
* Fungi and Molds
The danger is most significant in Late Summer to Autumn.
Global warming has caused higher temperatures and decreased humidity, which favours high pollen counts in the air. Rain and other sources of atmospheric moisture, make pollens heavy and thus unable to float in the air. There is also, due to climate change, an increase of pollen spewing plants globally.
* Wind is very important for the dissemination of aero-allergens such as pollen and dust. In the past, strong winds were characteristic of the beginning of Spring e.g. August in Southern Africa. However, climate change has made the wind pattern very unpredictable, with strong gusts occuring in almost any month of the year.
It is important to note though, that although wind carries airborne allergens, it has been noted by Scientific Researchers that “hours of calm” are very important. It is during these hours when there is little or no wind, that allergens floating in the air are then able to settle down onto human habitations, causing allergy symptoms. Many daily hours of calm on windy days, equate to more suffering and visits to hospital emergency rooms.
GENERAL TIPS AND ADVICE FOR AIRBORNE SEASONAL ALLERGIES
The mainstay of the management of allergy, to reiterate, is AVOIDANCE of provokers of allergy. Medications, whether preventive or curative, are the second line of management.
Sufferers of allergy due to airborne allergens are also advised to closely follow weather reports (forecasts). Weather forecasts give information about expected temperatures, humidity, cloud cover and in some cases, windspeed and even pollen counts. Weather forecasts are now widely available on the internet, TV, radio and newspapers.
The living (and if possible, working) environment should be cleared of known or suspected offending agents as best as possible. But it must be known that some airborne allergens such as grass pollens can still trouble an allergy sufferer even if they are cleared in the vicinity. This is because wind can carry this allergens from sources as far as 12 km away!
Pollen counts are highest in the early morning to mid-morning hours. It is therefore best to avoid at all costs, being out in the open during these hours. Otherwise an allergic person would need to take extra protective measures such as medication.
Pollen counts are generally lowest at night. So where personal physical safety is not an issue, this is the safest time to venture outside during peak allergy season. Leaving doors and windows open at night (or even daytime) is not advisable though, as dust and pollen can enter and settle in the house.
Rain, as alluded to above, can wash away allergens like pollens and dust, or reduce their ability to float in the air. However, a lot of atmospheric moisture can unfortunately itself, cause allergy symptoms in some people. Fungi and molds also proliferate in the presence of high moisture content.
Allergy sufferers must always cover their noses and mouths when sweeping, dusting or vacuuming houses.
As allergy is multifactorial, allergic people should, when walking besides the road especially during peak allergy season, try to avoid walking on the side to which the wind is heading. This is to avoid taking in the extra offence of vehicle fumes. If this puts the pedestrian in a situation where they are not facing oncoming traffic, then it is better to walk far from the road.
Perfumes should, where tolerated (i.e. not causing skin problems like folliculitis and abscesses), rather be roll-on and not sprays which can get into the nose and lungs.
The house of an allergy sufferer and even more importantly, an allergic family, should be as free as possible, of allergens. There should be NO SMOKING in the house, ever (especially when there are young children in the house)! Electricity should be the preferred method of cooking and heating. Gas is not as safe for the airways, but is better than wood, coal or PARAFFIN.
Seasonal allergy, like other forms of allergy, is very common. It causes a lot of morbidity, mortality and economic loss. However, there is hope, and there is help.
A lot of knowledge about allergies has been accrued by both professionals and affected persons (” expert patients”). And there are nowadays many resources including the internet, by which information can be acquired.
Equipping ourselves with the said knowledge about allergies, and forming partnerships and support groups, can help us prevent and control allergy. It is indeed important to be familiar with when allergy season starts, and when allergy season ends, for your local area. This is because heightened awareness of allergy risks is essential during the allergy season.
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