All About Allergy Triggers

spring tree blooms, allergy triggers

As the weather warms and the days lengthen, many are eager to get outdoors and enjoy the sun and spring blooms. However, if you’re one of more than 60 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, you may feel less excited. Pollen and allergy triggers are everywhere.

Seasonal allergies can be a true misery, causing symptoms such as coughing, runny or stuffy nose, and itchy, watery eyes. In severe cases, the reaction can even trigger an asthma attack.

What prompts this aggressive immune response each spring?

As trees, and other seed-bearing plants, come back to life, they produce pollen as part of their reproductive process. The plants release high levels of pollen spores into the air that can be carried by the wind for miles. Pollen in itself is a harmless substance, but if you have seasonal allergies, your body mistakes the pollen for something dangerous and releases histamines to fight off the perceived threat. It’s this histamine response that causes your itchy, awful symptoms.

How can I identify my allergy triggers?

A medical professional can help diagnose your seasonal allergies based on when symptoms develop. In general:

  • Trees pollinate in the spring.
  • Grasses release pollen in late spring and summer.
  • Ragweed produces pollen in the fall.
  • Mold spores can cause seasonal allergies during the spring, summer, and fall.

The timing and severity of allergy season will vary depending on your location, but certain conditions can worsen symptoms. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology notes the following factors:

  • Tree, grass and ragweed pollens thrive during cool nights and warm days.
  • Molds grow quickly in heat and high humidity.
  • Tree and grass pollen levels typically peak in the evening.
  • Ragweed pollen levels are highest in the morning.
  • Rainfall can wash pollen away, but pollen counts rise afterwards.
  • Pollen counts surge on warm, windy days.

Knowing your allergy triggers and minimizing your exposure is a good first step to treating seasonal allergies. Over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl and Claritin can also help block the body’s histamine-producing response and reduce symptoms.

If you’re suffering from seasonal allergies, head to our clinic. Our friendly medical team will help you pinpoint your allergy triggers, and find relief.

Why We Still Need Masks

masks for COVID-19 protection

As states ramp up their distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, a return to normalcy feels within reach. But, how long will it take to achieve herd immunity in our communities? Will we still need masks and social distancing– and for how long? Below, we answer your questions surrounding life after vaccination.

How many people need to get a COVID- 19 vaccine to achieve herd immunity?

Herd immunity occurs when enough people in a community are protected from getting COVID-19 because they’ve either already had the disease or they’ve been vaccinated. Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person, and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns. According to an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Fauchi “believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt.”

Do we still need to wear masks and practice social distancing after getting vaccinated?

Short answer: yes.

More research is needed on whether the vaccine will keep you from spreading the virus to others. And because it will take time for our communities to achieve herd immunity, we need to continue using tried-and-true methods to help slow the spread. Use face masks to cover your mouth and nose when around others, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds, avoid poorly ventilated spaces, and wash your hands often.​​

Why get the vaccine if I still need a mask?

The vaccines are incredibly effective in protecting you from serious illness. Two shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces your risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by about 95%. There’s no way of knowing how COVID-19 will affect you. Protect yourself and others by getting the vaccine as soon as it’s available to you.

The CDC is learning how the vaccines work in a real-world setting. For now, it’s important we all do our part in slowing the spread.

COVID-19 Vaccines Explained

covid-19 vaccines

With authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines now available in the US, we have real hope for stopping the pandemic. There are currently two FDA-authorized mRNA vaccines for COVID-19: the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine (for ages 16+) and the Moderna vaccine (for ages 18+). Below, we answer some common questions about these newly developed vaccines, and what they mean for you and your loved ones.

How do the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work?

mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. Rather than using a weakened or inactivated germ to trigger an immune response in the body, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a harmless protein—or even just a piece of a protein. Our immune system recognizes that this protein doesn’t belong, and will begin building an immune response and producing antibodies. These antibodies protect us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

You can visit CDC’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine webpage to learn more about this process.

What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?

COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications and even death in some individuals, and there’s no way of knowing how the virus will affect you. The COVID-19 vaccine offers protection from the illness by creating an antibody response in your body. The vaccines available in the US are highly effective. On the off chance you do still get COVID-19, vaccination will help reduce the severity of your illness and lower the risk of serious complications.

By getting vaccinated, you also help the people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?

The vaccines being used under emergency use authorization have been shown to meet rigorous safety criteria and be effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials. Take a look at an overview of safety and efficacy data here.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

No, the mRNA vaccines don’t use the live virus that causes COVID-19.

However, it’s important to remember that it takes several weeks, and 2 separate injections of the vaccine, for the body to build up immunity against COVID. This means it’s possible to become infected with COVID-19 just before or shortly after you receive your vaccination.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

You may feel flu-like symptoms in the first few days after receiving the vaccine. This is normal, and a sign that your body is building protection against COVID.

After getting the vaccine, you may experience:

  • Pain and swelling at site of injection
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for any pain and discomfort.

When will I be able to get the vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccine supplies are limited, and each state has its own plan for deciding which groups of people will be vaccinated first. Contact your local health department for the latest information on how and when you can receive a vaccine.

CDC recommends that states allocate initial supplies of the vaccine to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. The next phase includes frontline essential workers, such as firefighters, police and correction officers, food and agricultural workers, postal workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, and public transit workers. It also includes adults 75 and older. Phase 3 includes people aged 65-74 years and individuals with underlying conditions.

The goal is for everyone to have access to the vaccine as soon as enough supplies are available.

We hope this information gives you some peace of mind in regards to vaccination. The CDC offers more Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination.

Healthy Resolutions

woman doing sit ups - healthy resolutions

For many of us, the new year offers a symbolic fresh start. We have the opportunity to release the bad habits and attitudes of yesteryear, and commit ourselves to better health and wellness. We might resolve to exercise more, eat less junk food, quit smoking, or read a book a month. Whatever the resolution, it’s important to set tangible and truly healthy goals. Below, we offer a few tips to help you achieve lasting lifestyle changes in the year to come.

How to set and achieve healthy resolutions:

Be specific. You’ve resolved to exercise more. Now what? Translate this resolution into a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (SMART). For example, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. This can translate to going for a brisk 30 minute walk, 5 days a week. Set yourself up for success by turning big, vague goals into small, achievable tasks.

Start small. It’s true what they say: slow and steady wins the race. Changing habits is hard, and can feel especially overwhelming if you move too fast. Instead, take a baby step toward your goal. Choose something that you can accomplish easily every day, such as saying no to soda. This simple habit change will have more long-term success than an all-intensive crash diet that you can’t sustain.

Be kind to yourself. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and life is throwing us constant curveballs. Now more than ever, we need to show ourselves compassion. Do the best that you can, and know when to cut yourself some slack. Did you slip up and indulge in dessert when you said you wouldn’t? All is not lost. Let go of the guilt and simply restart. You can begin again.

We hope this guidance helps you make your healthy resolutions a reality.

Small, simple changes will eventually lead to lasting accomplishments. You can do it!

Ways to Celebrate at Home this Holiday

celebrate at home - young boy on bed with holiday lantern

This year, the safest way to celebrate is to celebrate at home. COVID-19 cases are surging across the country, with hospitalizations and the daily death toll higher than ever before. Our hospital systems are under immense strain and experts predict things will only worsen in the coming months. With this in mind, we urge you to rethink your usual holiday celebrations in order to save lives.

As cases soar, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. Traveling, and gathering with friends and family who do not live with you, can increase the risk of getting and spreading the virus. So, how can we get in the holiday spirit without the merry gathering? We’ve got a few ideas!

Fun Ways to Celebrate At Home During COVID-19

Have fun outdoors.

Get festive with outdoor activities such as skiing, sledding, and ice skating! Or head out for a hike or stroll in the park if you’re in a warmer climate. Just remember to keep your distance and wear your mask around others.

Exchange meals, gifts, and treats.

Trade your favorite holiday dishes, cookies, or handmade gifts with friends and family via contactless drop-offs and pick-ups. Make your own or support a local, small business.

Get creative with cooking and crafts.

Cook up that cozy feeling with homemade hot cocoa or mulled cider. You can bake a pie, build a gingerbread house, or indulge in a savory stew. Need more ideas? Try making ornaments, wreaths, or candles. Decorating the house together can also be fun.

Settle in for a movie marathon.

Cozy up by the fireplace, or build an epic blanket fort, and stream your favorite holiday films.

Give a helping hand.

Get in touch with a local shelter, community organization, or food bank to see how you can help. Take part in a toy drive or donate to a good cause. Looking outside yourself and helping others can give you a huge boost against feelings of isolation.

Take care of yourself.

The pandemic is overwhelming and we’re all feeling grief and loss in different ways. Make room for yourself to relax. Take a bath, cuddle up with a book, or allow yourself a long nap.

We hope these tips help you celebrate at home, battle winter blues, and find new ways to reach out and connect with others. Stay safe and healthy! We’re here when you need medical care.