Allergy expert talks about the main culprits wrecking your sinuses & what you can do to feel better

Are you sneezing? Nose runny? Eyes watering? If you've lived in North Carolina a minute or two, you know it's allergy season.

The main culprit right now is tree pollen.

"Tree pollen will be increasing steadily throughout March until May at peak levels, continuing throughout the summer," said Dr. Patricia Lugar, an allergy and immunology specialist with Duke Health.

Dr, Lugar said pollen is suspended in the air on hot, dry days typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Pollen counts are low on cold, rainy days, but the wind can carry it for miles.

Dr. Lugar said the yellow dust on your car right now is pine pollen but other tree pollens are there and many of those you can't see.

How do you know you have allergies and not COVID-19?
Dr. Lugar said allergy symptoms start with sneezing, itchy watery eyes, runny nose followed by congestion and sore throat. Allergies may also get better or worse depending upon your exposure.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 symptoms tend to start with sore throat, fatigue, headache and congestion.

How do you fight it? Dr. Lugar says there are two main ways:
  • 1. Avoid peak exposure. Get outdoor activities done in the morning or late afternoon/early evening hours. After being outside, remove shoes and outdoor clothing before going inside. Once in, wipe off pets fur and paws with a damp paper towel and jump in the shower to remove any existing pollen on you.
  • 2. Allergy meds can be very effective. Dr Lugar recommends "saline rinses, oral or topical antihistamines (nasal sprays and eye drops" and steroid nasal sprays can relieve the majority of symptoms." If that doesn't help you may need to see an allergist to consider allergy shots or other strategies to change your immune response and put your allergies in remission.
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