Ah, spring — sunshine, birdsong, the lovely lengthening of days… and unfortunately for many of us, the return of our yearly battle with spring allergies.
From an annoying sniffle to full-on extreme fatigue, fighting seasonal allergies can put a damper on anyone’s day-to-day, especially if you’re trying to enjoy a road trip. No one wants to have to write in a travel budget line item for Kleenex and Claritin, not to mention the more straightforward drawback of being too ill to enjoy your journey.
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Plus, different parts of the country have different plants and animals — which may sound obvious, but also means traveling can expose you to different allergens. That means your symptoms can change at a moment’s notice… or you may even discover allergies you didn’t know you had before. Not exactly the kind of self-discovery most travelers are after!
But take heart: there are ways around the sniffle monster, even when it seems like every leafed thing is setting you off. Here are our best tips for surviving seasonal allergies while you’re on the road — and in general.
Understanding Seasonal Allergies
Let’s start at the beginning. What, exactly, are seasonal allergies, and why do we get them?
Also known as hay fever, seasonal allergies occur when the body reacts to specific plant materials like pollen, which proliferate during the spring season. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the most common culprit for seasonal allergies is a plant called ragweed, which grows wild all over the United States but especially along the east coast and midwestern region. Other wild plants that cause allergies include burning bush, cocklebur, lamb’s quarters, pigweed and more.
Allergy symptoms can range from sniffling, sneezing, and watery eyes to slightly more serious responses like hives. Unlike dietary allergies, it is very rare for seasonal allergies to produce life-threatening symptoms like anaphylaxis.
Can You Develop Seasonal Allergies?
Unfortunately, you can develop an allergy at any point in your life, including seasonal allergies or hay fever. Experts still aren’t sure exactly why adult-onset allergies present themselves out of nowhere, but it does seem that seasonal allergies are increasing on a global level.
How long do seasonal allergies last? The duration and extremity of the symptoms can depend on a wide range of factors, from your body’s particular allergic response level to the weather. A rainfall can wash away the pollen that’s been setting you off, for instance, which can make the symptoms abate for a week or so… only to re-emerge later.
In general, though, allergy season spans from February until the early summer. Looks like not everything about springtime is lovely!
Seasonal Allergies: Treatments
Now that we’ve talked through some of the most pertinent points of what your allergies are, let’s get to the important stuff: allergy relief. How do you get it, whether you’re at home or on the road? What about if you’re dealing with severe seasonal allergies?
Many people take commercially-available allergy medications including antihistamines, like Claritin or Benadryl. However, it’s important to keep in mind that antihistamines can make you drowsy — which is especially dangerous if you’re going to be driving! If you’re experiencing allergies on a road trip and you choose to take medication, always use non-drowsy products while driving. In fact, if you can, go a step further… and have someone else drive if you’re using medications. You never know how you’re going to respond to a medication, even if it’s marked non-drowsy, and you don’t want to put yourself or others at risk.
Dealing with Seasonal Allergies
If you deal with extreme seasonal allergies, relief can evade you even with medication. Or you simply may not want to take as much medication as you’d need to in order to keep those symptoms at bay.
So what’s the best natural remedy for seasonal allergies? What is there to take for allergies that isn’t going to put you to sleep or make you miserable?
Well, first of all, it can be helpful to learn what’s causing the problem. Allergy testing can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, but once it’s done, you’ll know exactly what your body is having trouble with… and then take steps to avoid it, thereby lessening your symptoms.
If you’re experiencing hay fever, chances are it’s pollen and mold you’re reacting to, even if you don’t know the specific plant type. So keep an eye on the weather reports in your area and the areas you’re planning on traveling to; meteorologists often include pollen and mold counts in their daily delivery during allergy season.
Keeping doors and windows closed will also help keep allergens out and you in… although if you’re traveling with the intent of taking outdoorsy adventures, that advice will only get you so far! Of course, it’s still helpful to experience fewer symptoms, so be sure to shower and wash your clothing as soon as you come indoors after being outside. If things are really unbearable, you might consider wearing an allergy mask on your next hike or other outdoor venture.
There are also certain foods that are thought to help seasonal allergies, most of which are already fresh, healthy choices anyway: onion, kiwi, pineapple, and berries are all said to have allergy-fighting properties, according to WebMD.
Traveling with allergies can be a struggle, but spring is simply too beautiful to miss out on. So at the end of the day, our best advice is to make sure you’ve got plenty of tissues on board… or to pick up and head for an area that doesn’t have so much pollen! (After all, your RV has wheels for a reason.)
Happy spring, even if it’s a sniffly one!
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