Spring is literally in the air – and for the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, it means a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, eczema, asthma or other awful systematic responses that detract from the beauty of blossoming flowers and the birth of new life.
According to the South African Allergy Society, as many as 20-30% of South Africans suffer from seasonal allergic rhinitis – more commonly known as hay fever. Statistics SA reports that over a million South Africans have been professionally diagnosed with asthma. And while studies on the prevalence of eczema are limited, age-specific research shows that numbers are on the rise.
What do most of these people have in common? A seemingly innocuous enemy named pollen. And South Africa having experienced a particularly wet winter this year, an increase in plant growth means that allergy sufferers are currently faced with an onslaught of pollen from trees, grasses and weeds.
Did you know?
Municipalities prefer to plant male trees to avoid the messy fruits and seed pods that female trees tend to produce. If you were paying attention in your Biology class, you’d know that more male trees means more… you guessed it… pollen!
Limiting your pollen exposure
As much as many of us welcome the warmer weather, the change of season can be a time of absolute agony for allergy sufferers. If you or any of your family members are prone to hay fever, it’s important to reduce your exposure to the allergens that trigger these responses. This means taking care, being aware, and trying to adhere to a few golden rules:
- Stay indoors on dry, windy days;
- Stick to outdoor sports that limit your exposure to trees and grasses;
- Delegate the gardening chores, like mowing and weeding, that stir up pollen – or wear a mask if you need to do them yourself; and
- Try not to hang your laundry outside, where pollen can stick to your clothes, bedding and towels.
But it’s not just about the pollen…
What many allergy-sufferers do not realise is that while allergies flare up due to the sudden increase of pollen in the air, there’s a double-whammy at play. The allergic reaction to pollen is caused by an over-reactive immune system. Once an allergic response is triggered, this increases the body’s senstitivity to non-seasonal stimulants, such as pet fur, dander and dust. Basically, your body becomes hyper-sensitive and reactive to things that might not even elicit a sneeze at other times of the year.
Pharmacies love Spring, as their anti-histamine and cortisone sales shoot up, while up to a third of the population find themselves miserable and medicated with pills, lotions and potions.
What can you do about it?
Fortunately, apart from trying to keep the pollen out by keeping your doors and windows shut (which isn’t entirely effective, as those sneaky spores will find their way in through vents and on animals and clothes), you can invest in an air purifier:
A good air purification system will help to keep the air in your home, office or even your car free of unpleasant airborne particles, including pollen and dust. What’s more, it can reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria by killing these organisms during the filtration process. The removal of odours is an added benefit and some models even produce a refreshing fragrance for those who are missing the outdoor scents of Spring!
Do you have any other advice to give fellow sufferers? Do you have any questions you would like to ask us? Please fill in the comments below.