Spring is such a beautiful time with longer days, warming temperatures, and more sunshine bringing green grass and blooming flowers. Unfortunately, this turn in the season hales the onset of seasonal allergies for many of us. Seasonal allergies can vary quite remarkably in presentation and severity among different people and can begin at any age without previous history of allergies. While the symptoms of allergies can be very troublesome, there are many interventions available to help control the severity of symptoms.
Allergies by their nature are a basic physical response to exposure to something the body views as a threat. This response is known as a histamine response and can vary incredibly in severity. While some allergies, such as allergies to nuts, can be severe enough to be a threat to life, most tend to be much less severe. Many of us are familiar with the seemingly never ending itchy/watery eyes, drippy nose, pressure and pain in the sinuses and ears, as well as tickling in the throat and cough caused by post nasal drip. Some people are unfortunate enough to suffer from allergy induced asthma which can cause quite severe chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Let’s talk about some methods of intervention for self management of your allergies by increased increments of medicinal intervention.
- Reduce Exposure
- When possible, stay inside on dry, windy days. Best days to go out are after a rain which reduces airborne pollen.
- Delegate outside lawn chores which tend to stir up allergens. If you must be outside for chores, wear a pollen mask.
- Remove clothing worn outside and then shower to remove pollen and dust from your skin and hair.
- Don’t hang laundry outside to dry. While line dried is fresh and nice, pollen can stick to bedding and towels to be transferred later.
- Know when pollen counts are high and act accordingly
- Monitor pollen levels with local forecasts or with handy tools such as: Pollen.com
- If your symptoms tend to be severe, and the forecast is predicting high pollen counts, you may want to begin taking allergy medications before your symptoms start.
- Keep windows and doors closed when pollen counts are high.
- On average, pollen counts tend to rise in the mornings, peak mid-day, and then gradually decrease in the afternoon and early evening. Plan your outdoor activities around this rhythm.
- Keep indoor air clean
- Use the air conditioning in your home and car.
- Use high efficiency filters in your HVAC units and keep up with system maintenance.
- Use a portable HEPA filter in the bedroom.
- Vacuum regularly with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter. Better yet, have someone else vacuum, such as a teenager without allergies!
- Symptom Management
- Regular nasal and sinus lavage with saline nasal spray or using a nettie pot can help rinse allergens from the nasal passages and sinuses. Be sure to only use sterile solutions in your nettie pot and keep it impeccably clean!
- Over the counter nasal steroid sprays such as Flonase and Nasocort can be very effective in relieving congestion, use as directed. Other nasal sprays such as Afrin, which are best avoided, can be used for a max of 2-3 days. Prolonged use can lead to rebound congestion that can be significantly worse than when you started!
- Over the counter oral antihistamines such a Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin are all quite effective choose one that works best for you, some find particular products make them more drowsy than others.
- Pill form of decongestants can be helpful, some are available over the counter, others by prescription only. Don’t use decongestants if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- There are of course multiple alternative and homeopathic therapies that may improve allergies, but that is outside the scope of this post.
- It may be time to see a doctor
- If these interventions don’t help or you are having symptoms of allergy induced asthma, it may be time to visit your doctor. In very severe cases your primary care physician may refer you to an allergist for testing and perhaps allergen immunotherapy.
Sometimes allergy symptoms can seem severe enough to mimic the symptoms of strep throat, sinus infections, ear infections, or bronchitis without the accompanying fevers. If you are in doubt and can’t get in to see your regular doctor we can help with diagnosis and treatment. Good luck out there and we hope you have a terrific spring and summer season!