Hay fever sufferers know what time of year it is: it’s that time of year again. Pollen counts are rising, and with them the watery eyes, nasal irritation, cough and other signs of allergy.
Actually, the term “hay fever” has been supplanted in the literature by “allergic rhinitis,” which is just what it says — allergic inflammation of the nasal passages. Pollen, dust and animal dander are all common allergens, but this time of year the main culprit is pollen. After all, it’s spring: everything is sending out signals.
Hay, by the way, doesn’t cause allergic rhinitis, nor is there a fever invovled – it’s the grass pollens in the air cause the allergy, pollens frequently released in the same season as the cutting of hay, back on the farm.
Allergies are more common than you might believe. It’s estimated that one in three people have an active allergy at any given time, and a majority of people develop an allergic reaction at least once in their lives. Springtime though, right about now, is when a tenth to a quarter of us are affected by allergic rhinitis every year.
You may be happy to hear we're not in among the 10 worst US cities for allergies this spring, according to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Those honors were reserved for places like Baton Rouge, LA, and Knoxville, TN. San Francisco rated 84th in the country and San Jose was 88th, improvements from their 2012 ratings of 83rd and 78th, respectively.
If you’re sensitive to pollen, either from grasses, trees or weeds, you probably already know to keep an eye on sites like www.pollen.com to gauge the pollen count from day to day. Sign up for pollen alerts from The Weather Channel that can be sent to you via email or text message. Or look up your own town in California from this page on weather.com.
The pollen forecast for Novato this week is "high" on Thursday and "very high" on both Saturday and Sunday, according to weather.com.
There are several schools of thought on how to cope with allergies. Two of them are shared in blogs on Patch, both published this week.
In one, Kaiser Permanente's Dr. Andrew Hope shares his expertise with people living with allergies this spring in Joe Fragola’s Coping with Seasonal Allergies. He runs down some of the myths and realities of allergies, and strategies for getting through the season without too much distress.
The other blog takes a different approach. Kia Sanford writes about Seasonal Allergies and Nutrition, ways to combat allergies through diet, foods and vitamins instead of medication. Foods that are high in histamines (that’s what antihistamines combat) include some pretty appealing ones — chocolate, wine, beer, avocados, aged cheeses, fermented foods like sauerkraut and tamari, yogurt, sour cream, pickles and olives – but Sanford says you’ll be better off avoiding them if you’re pollen-sensitive this time of year.
Allergies do run in families, so if you know one or both of your parents suffered every spring, you probably will too — if you don’t already.
Help your fellow Patch readers and allergy sufferers with your own suggestions, strategies and relief for hay fever, and we’ll all thank you.