Why is there so much pollen in and around my face?
Ah, spring, the beautiful time of year when trees and flowers are trying to kill you.
Whether you've dealt with seasonal allergies most of your life or you're just feeling the hellish effects of pollen for the first time this year, there are actually ways to minimize the struggle. BuzzFeed Health spoke with two allergists to get their advice for getting through allergy season without sneezing out your insides.
And FYI: Even though we interviewed allergists for this article, the information below is not a substitute for personalized medical advice.
Lorynz Brantz / Via BuzzFeed
First, here's how to tell if it's allergies or something else.
Two of the biggest indicators are when you get symptoms and how long they last. "Most colds start to get better in about three to five days; allergies last for weeks," Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network, tells BuzzFeed Health. They also tend to be seasonal, starting in May or September (depending on what you're allergic to).
Another clue is itchiness around your eyes, ears, nose, and throat, which is more often a symptom of allergies than a cold. Coughing and chest congestion can be a symptom of either, but a cough related to allergies will more often be a dry cough or tickle, says Parikh. And if you have a fever, it's probably not allergies.
Michael Hinson / Via BuzzFeed
Ideally you want to start taking allergy meds before your symptoms are kicking your ass.
For people who know they get seasonal allergies, it's usually best to start taking meds in early April. That's because it's easier to control your symptoms before the inflammation gets too out of hand.
"It's always best to be proactive because then you can kind of nip it in the bud before it gets out of control, before you need stronger medication," says Parikh.
Of course, that doesn't mean you're screwed if you're already suffering and you haven't started medications. Just take something as soon as possible, rather than waiting until you seriously can't breathe. So, about that medication...
Casey Gueren / Via BuzzFeed News
Most people start with an over-the-counter allergy pill, like a long-acting antihistamine tablet.
A 24-hour antihistamine like Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra, or Xyzal can be used daily during allergy season, and they're available without a prescription. These will work longer and have fewer side effects (like drowsiness) than something like Benadryl, says Parikh.
But keep in mind that everyone responds to these differently, she says, so it's possible that what worked for your friend might not do anything for you. If after a few days you're not noticing a difference, try a different brand.