This Is How You Survive Allergy Season in Canada
Environmental allergies are dependent upon, get this, the environment. As Canadians, our allergy seasons are different than the rest of the world, so this is why we created this guide, just for Canadians.
How to make allergies suck less
The sun is shining. The days are longer. How are you spending this time of year? All watery eyed and sneezing? Yup, that's when you know allergy season in Canada has hit. I connected with Dr. Susan Waserman, professor of medicine, division of clinical immunology and allergy at McMaster University, to find out how us Canadian beauties can enjoy the weather without wanting to scratch our eyes out.
Plan your vacations accordingly.
One solution: Avoid your allergen. “Allergy seasons and the types of allergens to which people develop allergy are dependent on local plants or flora and weather conditions, like temperature and moisture,” says Waserman about allergy season in Canada. “So, it is important to know the timing and concentration of particular pollens in local geographic areas.” Canada, being a large country with varying weather and plants, has varying allergy seasons. “In coastal British Columbia, tree pollen season can start in early February, grass pollen season end of April, and there is no native ragweed so it’s not a problem. In Ontario, tree pollen season begins in early April, and four to six weeks later in the more northern areas. Grass pollen is in mid-May and ragweed pollen is in mid-August.”
Know when it’s a cold or allergies.
It’s not uncommon to think you’ve caught a cold, when you actually have allergies, says Waserman, speaking on behalf of Flonase Allergy Relief. There is a difference with symptoms though. “Typical symptoms of allergy are runny itchy nose and eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy throat and palate, asthma in some.” But a big tell is the itch. “Itch is more prominent in allergy and, unlike colds, allergies can continue for a long time. Also with allergy, seasonal symptoms appear at similar times of year depending on triggers, and recur yearly. Colds are short lasting, may have fever, purulent secretions – all unusual with allergy.” Also, make note of the time of year and if you have a family history of allergies. Other signs: Eczema, recurrence of symptoms at certain times of year, positive response to allergy medications such as antihistamines and exposure to indoor allergens such as pets (year-round allergy). “These are clues to the presence of allergy.”
Arm yourself with the right meds.
“Medications are often necessary for complete relief of symptoms,” says Waserman. If you find that over-the-counter allergy medications don’t help, “See your doctor and ask to see an allergist. Allergy Skin testing is important to identify the allergen.”
Waserman created this allergy guide for us, Canadians, to deal with allergy season in Canada.
Medication isn’t the only way to deal with allergies.
Limiting your exposure to your allergen can also help. Wasserman recommends the following tips:
1. “Keep windows and doors closed in the house and car during pollen season. Air conditioning can help keep the temperature comfortable. If you have a window air conditioner, keep the vent closed to the outside.”
2. “Pollen counts are high on dry, windy days and they are lower after rain, and at night. Though not always practical, consider doing your outdoor activity during times when counts are lower.”
3. Get someone else to take care of your lawn. “Avoid grass cutting if you are allergic to grass pollen and/or outdoor mold.”
Be prepared to talk to your doctor.
You’ll want to make a few notes before you head to your doctor’s and allergist appointments. “Know your symptoms, timing of them, what medication you have tried and for how long, your response to medication, family history, and environmental exposures,” says Waserman. Your doctor will be watching out for these: Fever, unilateral nasal symptoms, purulent nasal secretions, severe headaches. Your doctor will diagnose if something else is going on, such as sinusitis.
Be your own health advocate.
“Ask to see an allergist for symptoms which do not respond well to treatment and for consideration of shots or tablet desensitization,” says Waserman, about tacking allergy season in Canada. “Allergists are important for diagnosis and optimal treatment. It may not be what you think-it may be a pet or other allergen in your environment.” Waserman says that getting the proper care for allergies is important, so don’t blow your symptoms off as “just allergies.” “It is not just a runny nose,” she says. “Allergies are associated with sleep apnea, poor exam performance, poor sleep, less productivity at work, and depressed mood. Don’t suffer in silence or ignore them as something insignificant.”