Pollen counts are updated daily from February 15 to November 15.
You seem to go through the same routine day after day this time of year. You wake up with congestion, a runny nose, watery eyes and a cough that won’t quit. Annoyed, you drag yourself out of bed and straight to the kitchen or bathroom so you can administer your allergy medication.
Within a few hours, you start to feel better. By lunchtime, most of your symptoms have subsided. Once you leave work, you feel pretty good, and you’re even better at night. Then you go to sleep and wake up only to do it all over again, suffering with symptoms as your alarm goes off.
Is it just you? Far from it. This isn’t a result of your medication wearing off, either. You very well may have worse allergies in the morning than other times of the day.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology or ACAAI says allergies can worsen in the morning for many reasons. Let’s discuss these in more depth now.
What kind of environment do you live in? Do you have a wife, mother or sister who sprays a lot of perfume each day? Perhaps your husband or brother can’t go a day without using body spray. If you live with an avid cleaner, then certain cleaning agents will surely linger in the air. A smoky home from a fireplace may feel warm and comforting for a minute, but what about your allergies?
All the scents above could lead to an allergy attack. The ACAAI calls them irritants, a fitting name.
Now, it’s important to differentiate irritants from allergens, because they’re not the same. An allergen, as you’re probably aware, includes things like pollen or certain food. When you’re exposed to that allergen, your immune system reacts, and your body produces an allergic response.
An irritant can cause certain symptoms that make it seem like you’re allergic, but you’re not. Irritants aren’t allergens. If you get watery eyes sitting around a fireplace or you start sneezing when you smell a certain perfume, it’s not because you’re allergic to the smoke or fragrances. They just exacerbate your preexisting allergies.
If you have a pollen allergy, then surely you know all about pollen counts. If not, here’s a quick recap. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or AAAAI defines pollen counts as “the measurement of the number of grains of pollen or mold spores in a cubic meter of the air.”
Lower pollen counts mean you can go outside and have little risk of suffering an allergy attack. The higher the pollen count, the greater the chances of your symptoms manifesting.
What time of day do you think pollen is at its worst? If you said the morning, you’re correct. Now, you might think that if you stay inside during the morning, you’re protected. That’s partly true, but you also have to watch out in other ways.
For instance, if pollen counts were high the day before, you were outside, and then you fell into bed without a shower, you could wake up sneezing the next day. Yes, that’s true even if the pollen counts are lower the day of. Why? You can track pollen into your house, so it’s always important to change your clothes, shower, wash your hair and replace your bedding often if you’re allergic.
Also, if you open the window on a nice day, you’re letting pollen in. The same is true if you have pets that linger outside or children that play outdoors and then come back in. They’re inevitably tracking in pollen with them.
Once you go to bed, you can’t really combat allergens. If you have an old air conditioner or heater and it blows out dust while you sleep, that could lead to a very unhappy morning. The above pollen example applies, too. If you brought pollen into the bed, then you’re very likely to wake up symptomatic.
Also, you could go out at night to avoid pollen counts and end up exposed to another allergen. You come back in, go to bed, and then start the next day with terrible allergy symptoms.
If morning allergies have you dreading waking up, then here’s what we recommend you do.
If you have only mild morning allergies, then start with an over-the-counter allergy medication. These typically only work for a few hours, but that relief should be all you need. Once you get to about noontime, after all, most of your symptoms have disappeared.
For fewer symptoms from the moment you wake up, you might take the over-the-counter pills the night before.
If you find that over-the-counter meds don’t really put a dent in your symptoms, don’t despair. You can always visit a doctor to get a prescription medication. This should come in a higher strength dosage that lasts longer, thus offering you more protection from your allergy symptoms.
If you know what you’re allergic to, then avoidance is one of the best ways to combat your allergies. Read the pollen counts every single day and then adjust your plans accordingly for a pollen allergy. While you likely work and can’t avoid going out in the morning, you can move swiftly to your car and then your office.
On the days when you do have the freedom to plan your whole day, stay inside during the times when pollen counts reach their highest levels. Know that factors like the time of day as well as the weather can affect pollen counts. For instance, rain can wash most if not all the pollen away for the day.
Tidying up around the house will also keep your allergies under control. If you have an allergy to dust, pollen or pet dander, then it pays to clean regularly. Make sure you wear a surgical mask so you don’t breathe in the allergens you kick up with your cleaning. You might also ask a spouse or family member to take care of the cleaning for you if they can.
As we said before, change your clothes after going outside. Shower too if you have the time. Don’t leave the same bedding on for more than a week. Wash dirty clothes frequently since some allergens can linger.
If none of the above have worked for you, or you want the advice of a professional, try seeing an allergist. At Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we can diagnose and treat your allergy. Whether you need a medication or even an allergy management plan, our staff can assist you. We have more than 60 years of experience in Charlotte and beyond.
We treat such conditions as sinus disease, drug allergies, allergic rhinitis, latex sensitivities, allergic skin disorders (including allergic rashes and hives), insect allergies, food allergies and asthma. Our staff here at Carolina Asthma & Allergy diagnoses allergies via tests like food challenges, drug challenges, patch tests, skin prick tests, skin biopsies and insect allergy tests.
Contact us to set up your appointment today.