With pollen counts rising, the spring allergy season has officially started. For some, spring allergy season passes without any symptoms while others may suffer from congestion, cough, runny nose, sneezing and red, itchy eyes.

As the weather begins to warm up in the next several weeks, pollen counts will continue to rise and more people will begin to suffer. Richard Samuel, MD, medical director at Adventist HealthCare’s Urgent Care centers, starts to see more severe allergy symptoms and respiratory illnesses, such as sinus infections, around the end of April and early May.

“We typically see patients come in with cough, headache, shortness of breath, wheezing and throat irritation around this time of year,” says Dr. Samuel. Allergy symptoms after a few weeks can develop into a more serious illness, like a sinus infection or breathing difficulties.

“The sinuses can become blocked by mucus that was brought on by an allergic reaction to pollen and develop into a sinus infection causing headache, congestion and facial pain,” says Dr. Samuel. The same can happen in the lungs, causing breathing difficulties, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

It can be hard to know the difference between seasonal allergies, a sinus infection or the common cold because they share similar symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, fatigue and runny nose. Here are a few of the key differences:

Cold:

  • Fever
  • Symptoms clear after about seven days
  • Sore throat

Allergies:

  • Itchy, watery or red eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Symptoms last longer than a week

Sinus Infection:

  • Headache
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Discolored mucus

There are some ways to help prevent the more serious illnesses like sinus infections and breathing difficulties, says Dr. Samuel. He recommends the following tips to combat seasonal allergies:

  • Limit exposure to the allergen. Dr. Samuel recommends avoiding the time of day when pollen counts can be at their worst, usually early morning and evening.
  • Over the counter saline nasal washes will help clear irritated nasal passages.
  • Drink plenty of water to help thin mucus and stay hydrated.

Centra Care Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care is here to help for all your minor illnesses and injuries. Walk ins are welcome, or make an online reservation.