Baseball season for allergy sufferers

Tips for Balancing Baseball and Allergies

Spring means longer days, warmer weather, and the beginnings of baseball! Unfortunately for some allergy suffers, the start of the long-anticipated baseball season also means the time of year when allergens such as tree pollen are at an all-time high. Sneezing, wheezing, and itchy, watery eyes can make games or practice challenging for you or your little leaguer. Even more concerning? The thought of major league games and contact with baseball’s favorite sidekick...peanuts! You can still enjoy this spring and baseball season with a little planning for your allergies.

Eliminating all outdoor sports and activities may seem like the best decision, and for many, it is. However, if skipping out on baseball or other outdoor sports due to allergies just is not an option, we can help. Here are some tips that will help allergy suffers enjoy watching America’s pastime and PLAY BALL!

Airborne Allergy Tips

Check the weather forecast before heading to the game. When checking out the weather, it is good practice to also check the pollen counts in the area. Keep in mind that peak pollen times are typically in the first half of the day, specifically 5am 10am. Attending practices or games midday or in the afternoon may help to reduce exposures.

Baseball and outdoor allergies don't have to be in competition with one another. If you have a little leaguer, packing wet wipes is good practice. Wiping down their hands, face and neck can be helpful to combat those distracting allergy symptoms when out on the diamond. Also, make sure your favorite player is not relying on allergy medication that could make them drowsy. There are non-sedating medication options, or allergen immunotherapy that are worth discussing with their provider.

After a long practice or game, it is beneficial to change your clothing as soon as possible. Also helpful is an immediate shower, especially before crawling into bed. The shower will help to wash away any allergens that have adhered themselves to your skin or hair. This is especially important so that the allergens aren't transferred to your pillow or sheets, remaining in the immediate space you breathe in all night.

Planning for Stinging Insects and Food Allergies

If your allergies include stinging insects or even food, planning ahead can alleviate a lot of anxiety. Always make sure to carry a minimum of two epinephrine auto injectors if there is a known insect or food allergy. Make sure the epinephrine auto injectors can be accessed and administered within 60 seconds if the need arises.

If food allergies are present, especially peanut, legume, or tree nut, it can make the lyrics “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks” send shivers down your spine. Fortunately, most large baseball stadiums across the country have become aware of the dangers and distress surrounding food allergies and have started to offer peanut-free games or special accommodations for food allergy families with peanut-free designated seating. The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization typically releases an annual guide outlining which major league and minor league baseball stadiums offer peanut aware sporting events. Along with utilizing their helpful guide, FARE recommends “to reach out directly to the venue to learn more about their efforts”.

Some suggested questions to have ready when you contact the venue about are:

  • Are there any [peanut] allergy friendly games, sections, or suites available?
  • Does the venue utilize power washing for seating, and traffic pathways at the stadium?
  • Can you find ingredient lists or are they available upon request at the concessions?
  • Do they allow families to bring in their own safe meals and snacks?
  • Are emergency responders available to the public at every game, and are their sections closer to these personnel?

Planning and communication are key to enjoying baseball season and balancing your outdoor allergies. Talk to family, friends, coaches, players, and venues, to create a plan that is right for your family. However, missing out on baseball season does not have to be part of that plan. If you or your loved ones are not quite sure if allergies are playing a role, or if the over-the-counter allergy medication just is not cutting it, you have options. There is still time to see your provider and discuss allergy testing and begin allergen immunotherapy.

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About the Author:

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and immunology. 

 

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Tree pollen allergy explanation and avoidance tips

Tree Pollen Allergy

March is finally here, and that means so is Spring. Longer days, morning walks in the garden, rain showers and rainbows are excitedly on the horizon. However, if you have spring allergies you may be less excited about the season. Spring is typically defined as starting with the vernal equinox, and this year that is March 20. Of course, our allergies don't need a calendar to tell us that tree pollen, the main culprit of the sniffles and sneezes during spring allergy season, is already here!

Trees typically start producing pollen as early as January in the Southern areas of the U.S. The Northern and Central areas follow with pollen production sometime in February. One outlier, the Ashe Juniper Tree (commonly called Mountain Cedar) wreaks havoc in Oklahoma and Texas as early as December. Many trees will continue to produce pollen through June. Also, the milder the winter season, the earlier the trees begin producing pollen. Similarly, late winter or early spring snowfall leads to more pollen. The copious amounts of moisture produced when the snow melts allows a greater volume of pollen production.

Understanding Pollen

Pollen is a powdery substance made up of small spores that come from male trees and flowers. There are two primary types of pollen. The first pollen type, “Sticky Pollen” is produced by plants and trees that have bright and attractive flowers. This kind of pollen sticks to bees and is transported during flight, fertilizing other plants. These bright flowers are commonly thought to be spring allergy offenders. However, sticky pollen doesn't release much pollen into the air, so they are likely not driving most allergy symptoms.

The other type of pollen is “Wind-Blown Pollen”. This pollen comes from larger trees like pine and oak. The pollen is released in large quantities into the air, fertilizing other trees of the same species. The pollen that causes stereotypical allergy symptoms like nasal congestion, runny nose, and itchy eyes is usually the wind-blown pollen. This pollen is very small and light, and is easily spread by the wind for miles and miles.

Allergy sufferers can benefit from checking local pollen counts to determine the density of pollen in the air on any given day. Pollen counts are determined by collecting pollen on special rods. It is then counted under a microscope and calculated in grains per cubic meter of air. Pollen counts tend to be highest early in the day, or when wind picks up just before a large rainstorm. If you like dancing in the rain, however, you are in luck. During a rainstorm and immediately following, pollen becomes still and dormant due to the rain making it damp and heavy. As the air becomes warm and dry following the storm, the pollen count will become potent again.

Managing Tree Pollen Allergies

For tree pollen allergy sufferers, it is recommended to avoid densely wooded areas, especially in early spring when pollen is the most abundant. If possible, avoid planting trees around the house that can cause allergy symptoms. Pass on major tree offenders like oak, birch, maple, cedar, juniper, and eucalyptus (unless you can guarantee they are female trees). Instead, look for friendlier species such as dogwood, pear, plum, redbud, or crape myrtle.

Pollen counts are never zero, and allergy sufferers will not truly be able to avoid tree pollen in the spring. However, some practices may help alleviate the severity of symptoms. Try utilizing the air conditioner and keeping windows and doors closed at home and in the car. Also, using the dryer instead of hang drying clothing will help decrease pollen exposures. One benefit of COVID-19 is that wearing some masks will help to minimize the amount of pollen that reaches the nasal passages, especially when worn in outdoor settings. Tree pollen allergy suffers should also make a habit of changing their clothes after coming in from being outdoors, and bathing prior to getting into bed/laying on upholstered furniture.

If you know someone that has difficulty with morning walks in the garden and they are unsure whether tree pollen is a trigger for their spring nasal congestion, runny nose, post nasal drip, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes, you can suggest they see their provider for an allergy test. It may provide the clarity they are looking for!

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Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA, and spent  8 years in clinical practice before joining United Allergy Services. Amanda is a past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and currently serves as Vice President of Clinical at UAS.

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