The sun is bright, the air is warm and the bees are buzzing … so why are so many people miserable?
While the spring warmth, rain showers and blooming plants may be a welcome change to many after the chill of winter, others are hounded by spring allergies and illnesses, including the common cold.
Let’s take a look at these unwelcome spring conditions.
Allergies and asthma
Seasonal allergies affect more than 50 million Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to substances, or allergens, that typically don’t affect other people. They may cause sneezing, coughing and itching and may be mild to life-threatening.
More than 25 million Americans have asthma — a disease of the lungs that causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and nighttime or early morning coughing.
Both conditions are often triggered by soaring pollen counts encountered by people spending more time outdoors in the warm weather, as well as the growth of mold indoors and outdoors prompted by spring showers.
If you have seasonal allergies, it’s important to take your medication. If possible, start your medication two weeks before your symptoms typically show up or before your local newscast reports a streak of warm weather on the horizon. Also, check with your doctor to make sure you have the right kind of medication. People with asthma should keep their peak flow meters and rescue inhalers handy. You will also want to keep an eye on pollen counts if you already know what kind of pollen sets off your condition.
To find an allergy and asthma screening location in your area, click here.
The cause of roughly half of all common colds, rhinoviruses spread easily during spring, a peak time for these illnesses. Rhinoviruses are viral infections, as their name implies, and typically cause upper respiratory infections but sometimes affect the lower respiratory system as well. To avoid spreading or catching a rhinovirus, practice preventive measures like coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue, washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth.
Just because winter is behind us doesn’t mean that the flu has also taken a hike. Flu activity in Louisiana has declined recently but is still elevated, and higher than our peak last season. This flu season, there have been about 7,000 hospitalizations and 700 deaths in Louisiana from flu and flu-related illnesses. Like rhinoviruses, preventive measures are key, including avoiding people who are sick and staying home from work or school if you have the flu. The best preventive measure is the flu shot, which can reduce the duration of illness, doctors’ visits and missed school and work, as well as flu-related hospitalizations. Learn more about how you can Fight the Flu.
Known more commonly as pink eye, conjunctivitis is common during the spring months and is often confused with allergy symptoms. It’s a highly contagious condition that is easily spread, particularly among young children. Keep conjunctivitis at bay with regular and frequent hand washing and avoiding touching the eyes. This condition can be bacterial, viral or allergic, and treatment varies depending on type. Viral is treated for symptoms only, bacterial requires antibiotics, and allergic can be treated with antihistamines taken by mouth and/or in the eye.
Norovirus and rotavirus
Norovirus and rotavirus come with stomach pain, cramping, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, and sometimes low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. These symptoms are very unpleasant and typically last one to two days, but norovirus and rotavirus can be spread for several days after the symptoms clear up. Again, wash your hands frequently and stay home from work or school if needed. You will also want to wash your bedding and disinfect any household items that you may have touched.
Spring weather, with its warmth and rain showers, is the perfect breeding ground for deer ticks, which transmit Lyme disease. Fortunately, Lyme disease is relatively rare in Louisiana, with just a handful of cases every year. Protect yourself when spending time outdoors by avoiding walking in tall grasses and other vegetation and using tick repellant. Watch your skin for a bull’s-eye rash, which is a sign of Lyme disease. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.
Don't let spring allergies and illnesses get you down. Take preventive measures and talk to your doctor if you're sick or concerned that you may become sick. Enjoy these warm days before the heat and oppressive humidity of summer take over!