Sneezing, coughing, watery red eyes: Tips on getting ahead of seasonal allergies from a DC-area doctor – WTOP News

Meredith Porter, medical director of Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care shares tips with WTOP on navigating early-season allergies.

Nearly a quarter of Americans — or 81-million people in the United States — suffer from seasonal allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Early-season allergies are often caused by pollen from trees, such as oak, elm, birch, poplar or maple, according to Meredith Porter, medical director of Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care. The family medicine doctor said summer will then bring new reactions to grasses and other plants.

“Allergies are basically the body’s defense mechanism overreacting, when your body mistakes a foreign substance, and in the case of spring allergies, it will be pollen,” Porter said.

“Your immune cells, which are supposed to come to the rescue, actually trigger that inflammatory response. Then the cascading effects of all of those spring allergy symptoms occur, which are sneezing, congestion, coughing, watery, itchy, red eyes, that feeling there’s something in the back of the throat.”

She said if you notice those symptoms affecting your quality of sleep, concentration or interfering with your ability to complete daily tasks — such as walking the dog — there are some measures you can take in addition to over-the-counter medications.

Porter suggested checking daily pollen counts based on ZIP code, using websites like The Weather Channel to plan your day.

“Be aware of what those pollen counts are and then minimize your outdoor time,” Porter said. “In midday, and on dry windy days, the pollen counts will be higher.”

If you do have to be out when the pollen count is high, there are ways to limit your exposure. Porter recommended keeping your vehicle’s windows rolled up while driving and turning your car’s AC to circulate air throughout.

“Simple things like just wearing glasses or sunglasses can keep pollen out of your eyes. If you are doing yard work and do have a history of severe allergies, you’d want to wear a face mask,” Porter said.

She said if you suffer from allergies, you can wash your face, hands and clothes or even take a shower after being outdoors for long periods of time, to avoid tracking pollutants indoors. You can also leave your shoes by the front door and wipe down your pets after their walk.

If your symptoms become severe, Porter recommended contacting your primary care provider for testing.

“Getting in to see a provider to help identify whether it is seasonal allergies or something that needs a different treatment and different approach would always be helpful,” she said.

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