By Shelby Russom
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO, Ark. — Spring. Plants are blooming, and the weather is finally warming. For some, spring is wonderful time of year. For others, spring means coping with seasonal allergies.

   According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies are reactions to allergens people come into contact with. Allergens, like pollen, cause seasonal allergies that affect approximately 81 million people in the United States and vary depending on location and time of year.

   Dr. Debra Schulte, a part-time nurse practitioner in Mountain Home and full-time assistant professor of nursing at Arkansas State University, said seasonal allergies are more common in the spring months but can affect people all year round.  

   “You see a lot more because you have your typical spring pollen,” Schulte said.

   A-State sophomore Sarah Purcell studying studio art said she does not believe her allergies are severe but does notice that the symptoms worsen during the warmer months of the year. Purcell said her allergies cause her to get mucus, but the symptoms of seasonal allergies can range from runny nose and sneezing to watery eyes and itchy throat.

   Dr. Audrey Folsom, A-State assistant professor of clinical laboratory, said preventing seasonal allergies is nearly impossible because people cannot avoid things like trees, flowers and pollen that release allergens into the air. However, people can manage their seasonal allergies through lifestyle and diet changes.

   To combat allergy symptoms, Schulte said people should change their surroundings by replacing carpet with hardwood in their homes, frequently washing their curtains and even putting plastic covers on their pillows and mattresses. Folsom said changing the foods people eat and adding vitamin D supplements to their daily routine can help the body fight against allergens.

   “It is ultimately tied to gut health,” Folsom said. “Because I would say, probably 80% of your immune system is around your gut. So the worse your gut health is, the more likely you are to have allergies.”

   Folsom herself battles with allergies. To combat her allergy symptoms, she cut out the big five foods that trigger allergies: wheat, gluten, dairy, soy and corn. Folsom said if people have very bad problems with allergies they should try to cut all five of those food groups out of their diet. Folsom said it is necessary to cut all five food groups out for at least a month and then reintroduce them back into the diet one at a time to properly find which is causing a spike in a person’s seasonal allergies.

Several medications are available to combat seasonal allergies. These medications include over-the-counter antihistamines, prescription medications, as well as allergy shots.

   “If those classifications of medications are not good options, there’s definitely different families of medications that your provider can prescribe,” Schulte said.

   Schulte said all these medications are easy to access, but all require a few uses before a noticeable change will occur.

   In Northeast Arkansas, it is common for farmers to burn their fields to clearf any leftover crops to prepare for planting new crops. This practice releases copious amounts of smoke into the air that people will breathe in. Folsom said burning fields severely worsens everyone’s breathing and allergies.

   “It’s horrible and I wish they would stop it,” she said. “People think it’s normal, but there’s other places in the nation that do not do that.”