By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
Spring is officially here, bringing us longer days, warmer weather, fragrant flowers, and those dreaded seasonal allergies. Itchy, watery, red eyes, sneezing, itchy throat, congestion and a runny nose are just a few of the symptoms that those with seasonal allergies may suffer from at this time of the year. The good news is that the symptoms are manageable, so to keep the ‘spring’ in your step let’s look at what can cause these allergies, and how we can all nip them in the bud.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever and allergic rhinitis, typically occur between March and May. They are caused by triggers or allergens that are carried in the air. Grass, pollen and mold are the most common causes, but in Bermuda, the main culprits at this time of the year are cedar trees, casuarina trees, rye grass and Bermuda grass. The reason that these plants can cause allergies to flare up is because of the way that they reproduce. Instead of relying on birds and insects to carry their pollen, they produce large amounts of tiny, wind-borne pollen.
The island’s warm and humid climate is also the perfect breeding ground for mold. Much like pollen, outdoor mold spores release into the air. Once airborne, the pollen and mold spores can get into our eyes, noses, skin, clothes, and into our houses. Keep in mind that pollen counts thrive during cool nights, warm days, and after rainfall.
Managing the Symptoms
Avoiding the outdoors in Bermuda at this time of the year is out of the question, so one way to manage the symptoms is to find a suitable medication.
Most people can find relief from their symptoms with an over-the-counter antihistamine available at your local pharmacy. Antihistamines usually come in tablet or liquid form and target symptoms by travelling through the whole body. If you would like to target one symptom, for example itchy eyes, you can also find specific medications, like eye drops, to help you find relief. For professional advice on the most suitable medication you can ask your pharmacist. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should always speak to a doctor before taking any type of medication.
Tips for the Home
Pollen can easily make its way into your home. Follow the steps below to keep your home allergy free:
- Keep your house clean. It’s a fact that up to one third of dust is pollen from outside.
- Change your clothes as soon as you come home, and place the dirty clothes in the hamper. If possible, seal the hamper, or place it in a room that you do not use much.
- Animal fur and hair can collect airborne pollen. If you have a pet, wipe their fur with a damp cloth after a walk or being outside, to collect any pollen.
- Wash your hair before you go to bed on moderate to high pollen days.
- Use an indoor clothes horse, or a tumble dryer to dry clothes. Avoid hanging clothes and bed sheets outside to dry.
- Where possible, keep windows closed and use fans to circulate the air inside.
- Try to keep at least one room allergy free, ideally your bedroom. You can do this by keeping it clean, keeping pets out, keeping dirty clothes in another room, keeping the windows closed and making sure you are clean when you get into bed.
Make sure to always have allergy medication available to you on days when the pollen levels are moderate to high. Bermuda’s AccuWeather report has an allergy section that monitors indoor pollen levels, which should give a good idea of what days your allergies will flare up.
Different brands of antihistamines last varying lengths of time. Some last 4-6 hours, while others can last up to 24 hours. Whichever you choose, it is wise to carry some with you on days when you are planning to be outside for long periods of time.
If you are unable to find relief from an over-the-counter medication, you may consider getting tested. If you have been suffering for a prolonged period of time, it is best to find out what is triggering your allergies, for the most effective treatment.
Now that we have covered the causes of seasonal allergies and how to manage them, you can get outside and enjoy the beautiful Bermuda Spring weather. If you would like any more information about seasonal allergies and how to cope with them, come to either of our pharmacies, at our Devonshire or Warwick store, and we will be happy to assist.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.