08 Oct Pollen allergies can be treated
Spring, a wonderful season – the weather is getting warmer, mornings are getting lighter, birds are singing, trees are blossoming …and billions of pollen grains are released into the air, causing susceptible individuals to develop hay fever!
According to doctors at the UCT Lung Institute, the Cape Town pollen count is at a 10-year high – so if you feel that your allergies are worse and lasting longer, you are correct. Tree pollen is the primary culprit in spring allergies, although grass pollen, weed pollen and mould spores also cause symptoms. Researchers say that due to climate change, pollen seasons are lengthening and pollen counts are increasing.
Pollen allergies present in three ways:
- Allergic rhinitis – sneezing, nasal congestion, postnasal drip and sore throat
- Conjunctivitis – red, itchy, watery eyes
- Asthma – tight chest, shortness of breath and coughing
Do I have an allergy or a cold?
The two can look and feel very similar. The difference is in the length and timing of the symptoms. A cold (caused by the rhinovirus) typically lasts 7-10 days. An allergy (initiated by pollen) lasts longer and recurs.
Pollen allergies can be treated
There are numerous over-the-counter options to treat allergies and the symptoms – speak to your pharmacist. In severe cases, which are not controlled by OTC medications, please see your doctor to explore other treatment options.
- Nasal Sprays (corticosteroids, saline rinse) Intranasal steroid sprays take 2-6 week to reach maximum effectiveness. Ideally they should be started a few weeks prior to spring.
- Anti-histamine (ask for a non-sedating option)
- Eye drops (with an anti-histamine component)
- Inhalant corticosteroids
Steps you can take for prevention
- Check the pollen count: For an up-to-date measure, visit www.pollencount.co.za – it is updated each week by researchers at the UCT Lung Institute.
- Limit exposure to pollen: Remain indoors when the pollen count is high (windows closed). The pollen count tends to be higher in the afternoon, so if you must go out, go in the morning.
- Limit pollen in the car: When driving, put the ventilation in re-circulation mode.
- Keep your airways clean and healthy: Use a saline nasal rinse (e.g. ‘Sterimar’) daily.
Author: Sister Erika Janutsch – Nursing Manager at The Somerset
At The Somerset our comprehensive complement of medical and support staff are always on call and will be happy to receive you at the clinic or to pop into your home to check on you on a daily basis, if you so wish. To read more about Health Care at The Somerset, click here.