ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 25 million adults and children across the country were diagnosed with rhinitis, or hay fever, within the last 12 months, which may lead many to believe they’ve caught an early-season cold.
“Many people mistake their seasonal symptoms for a cold instead of rhinitis due to several allergy myths,” stated allergist Stanley Fineman — president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in a release issued earlier this week. “Knowing the truth about allergies and how to prevent flare-ups can mean having a comfortable, symptom-free hay fever season.”
The allergists at ACAAI have compiled the following myths and facts about hay fever season to help those with allergies:
Myth: I’m miserable all hay fever season, but there’s nothing I can do except suffer through it.
Truth: There are many treatments available to ease your symptoms, including over-the-counter and prescription nasal sprays, medications and allergy shots, also called immunotherapy. There also are new treatments on the horizon, including one for asthma triggered by ragweed allergies, ACAAI reported. In the meantime, track your allergy symptoms with MyNasalAllergyJournal.org and visit your allergist to find relief.
Myth: I’ve never had a problem with hay fever, so I must be sneezy and stuffy because of a cold.
Truth: Anyone can develop an allergy, including ragweed, later in life. Scientists think it may be you’ve always had the allergy, but it might have taken exposure to another allergen to trigger your symptoms. If symptoms are persistent, lasting more than two weeks, you probably have allergies. Colds evolve, usually starting with a stuffy nose, throat irritation and low-grade fever. Common allergy symptoms include itchy eyes and nose, as well as sneezing, but the mucus is typically clear.
Myth: I should start taking my hay fever medication at the first sneeze and stop at the first frost.
Truth: Ragweed usually blooms around mid-August — a little later in the South — but it’s best to stay ahead of the itching, sneezing, drippy nose and wheezing and begin taking medication before symptoms start. The misery can linger until the end of the season, so wait until a few weeks after the first frost to stop taking medication.
Myth: My hay fever and pet allergies have nothing to do with each other.
Truth: If you are allergic to ragweed and your dog or cat, you may be even more miserable during hay fever season. People with ragweed allergies who also are allergic to cats or dogs develop symptoms faster and more severely, according to a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Best bet? Treat pet allergies year-round to help make hay fever more manageable. Your allergist might prescribe allergy shots.
Myth: Hay fever makes me sneeze and sniffle, but my tingly, itchy mouth must be caused by something else.
Truth: Actually, many people who are allergic to ragweed have oral allergy syndrome, also called pollen-food allergy syndrome. It means your body is having an allergic reaction to the proteins that are similar in ragweed pollen and certain fruits, vegetables and nuts — such as banana, cucumber, melons, zucchini and sunflower seeds. It’s quite common, and it is rarely serious. Usually it only causes an itchy tingly mouth, throat or lips. But sometimes it can cause a stomach ache and very rarely a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. In the event of an emergency, seek medical attention. Follow up with your allergist, who might prescribe epinephrine.