How to Survive Pollen Season in Charlotte

Pollen, pollen everywhere: A typical sighting in Charlotte, where the region gets blanketed with a yellow dusting every spring. 

Charlotte is known for being home to many transplants. Weary northerners seek milder winters in our Southern city, and those from locales further south hope to experience "real seasons" in the Queen City. But neither group of newcomers probably expected to experience one of Charlotte's most notorious seasons... Allergy season.

Those who aren't originally from this region are often shocked by the way their bodies betray them around this time of year. Runny noses compete for gold medals, itchy eyes beg for relief, and sensitive nostrils sneeze at the mere thought of pollen. These bodily reactions usually have parents asking, "What's up with that?"

 

Why are allergies so intense in Charlotte?

We asked the experts at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A. (CEENTA) to clue us in on the situation with spring allergies in Charlotte. Why are they so strong, and how can we help both ourselves and our children from suffering? Finally, we have some answers.

According to the doctors, 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children have allergies. That means there's a lot of sneezing happening this time of year. Because of our climate, this time of year causes an overlap in winter and spring allergies. For this region, winter allergies tend to be mold- and dust-related, and spring allergies are typically caused by tree pollens, in addition to mold. When plants start blooming early (much like they are right now), that's when winter and spring allergies overlap—causing a perfect storm of sneezy proportions.

 

How can I tell I have allergies and not a cold?

Keep a track record of when you feel lousy, CEENTA says. If you're suffering from allergies, the symptoms will return during the same season each year. The common signs of allergies are congestion, difficulty breathing, sneezing, and itchy eyes and noses. It's worth noting that itching is present in allergies but never colds. Unlike a cold, these symptoms don't go away after a few days. They linger much, much longer. On the other hand, if you have a fever, it's definitely not from allergies.

Oh, no! I have allergies. How can I treat them?

The best way to ensure you and your family don't suffer year after year from pesky allergies is to first try to prevent them from happening in the first place. Avoiding allergens means taking care of your living spaces so that they aren't hotbeds for these offenders. Below are some tips to implement.

How to avoid allergens

  • For mold: Keep your living area dry
  • For dust: Make sure air filters work properly and bedding is washed in hot water weekly
  • For pollen: Keep windows shut, and avoid going outside in the morning, when pollen counts are highest (if you can)

Once you've made active steps towards trying to prevent allergen exposure, the next step would be to treat any allergies with the right kinds of remedies. Because it can be impossible to truly avoid allergens such as pollen (we all have to venture outside at some point), the below over-the-counter medicines are recommended by the CEENTA doctors.

Recommended over-the-counter medicine

  • Flonase
  • Rhinocort
  • Nasocort
  • ​Claritin
  • Allegra
  • Zirtec
  • Xyzal​

​​Nasal sprays are the most effective over-the-counter medicine because they aren't addictive. They do, however, require daily use for maximum benefit. And don't worry about buying those exact brands. As long as the medicine itself is the same, you don't need to buy a name brand.

"Everything comes over the counter as a generic," CEENTA ENT Doctor Gregory Parsons, MD, said. 

Of course, sometimes, those allergies just won't quit. If you or someone in your family is especially sensitive to springtime in Charlotte, it may be time to see a doctor at CEENTA and receive a prescription for one of the below medical solutions.

The next steps:

  • Prescription Singulair
  • Immunotherapy shots, drops, or tablets

Immunotherapy can help you build up a tolerance to your allergies. Small amounts of allergens are introduced to your body to help you build up tolerances to a point where your allergies are greatly reduced or possibly even cured.

Regardless of how bad your allergies are, there's no reason to let them go untreated.

"Allergy patients are my 'walking wounded,'" CEENTA ENT Doctor Roy Lewis, MD, said. "They go to work or school and function, but could be feeling a lot better if they treated their allergies. Seventy percent of patients with mild allergies will be completely happy just by taking a topical nasal steroid on a daily basis."

CEENTA ENT Doctor Hunter Hoover, MD, agrees. "Patients should not be suffering from seasonal allergies. There are too many safe and effective medical treatments for them to have stuffy and runny noses."

Surviving allergy season in Charlotte isn't impossible, but when it comes to beating these annoying symptoms, knowledge is power. The folks at CEENTA are eager and ready to help your kids fight off allergies so your littles can enjoy the gorgeous spring weather and nature our city has to offer. 

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About CEENTA: With over 130 eye and ENT providers at nearly 20 locations across North and South Carolina, Charlotte Ear Eye Nose and Throat Associates offers a full spectrum of services to you and your family. Whether your concern is big or small, we have the specialists to clearly examine, diagnose, and treat most issues.