How to Get Relief From Seasonal Allergies
How to Manage Seasonal Allergies
Spring is a time for long walks, picnics and yard work. For 36 million Americans, spring also signals allergy season. As global temperatures rise, pollen and tree allergens last longer and may trigger more intense symptoms. People who are prone to allergies can follow a few steps to minimize their symptoms and find relief.
Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance, such as pollen, grass or mold. According to Dr. Mark Castellaw, medical director at Baptist Medical Group, seasonal allergy symptoms are similar to the common cold and include itchy eyes, runny nose, congestion and sometimes cough.
“Before assuming you have allergies, get evaluated by your doctor,” said Castellaw. “A physical exam and current blood work rule out more serious conditions, such as chronic sinus infection or sinus polyps. If discharge from your nose is yellow or green, that’s usually an indication of an infection. Once your doctor eliminates infection and serious sinus conditions, it’s probably allergies.”
Do-It-Yourself Allergy Protection
Allergy sufferers can make several lifestyle changes to keep uncomfortable symptoms at bay.
“On days when the pollen count is high — especially in April, May and June — the best thing to do is stay indoors,” said Castellaw. “Keep the windows closed, use the air conditioning and make sure the filters are changed regularly. Pollen caught in air filters circulates in the house and becomes an irritant.”
Allergy maps, such as the National Allergy Map from Pollen.com, help users see allergy levels and pollen count forecasts in different areas of the country. Allergy alert apps can send in-depth insights to your smartphone to help you plan when to spend a day indoors. If you must go outside to exercise or work in the yard, Castellaw recommends wearing a protective mask and changing clothes as quickly as possible.
“You may not always see it, but your clothes have pollen on them,” said Castellaw. “If you sit in the easy chair before changing clothes and showering, you’re inoculating where you sit with pollen and stirring up a problem.”
In addition to maintaining pollen-free clothes, Castellaw cautions not to forget about pets who go outside during the spring and summer months.
“Pets carry pollen, ragweed and grasses on their fur — just like we do on our clothing,” said Castellaw. “It’s very important to brush or bathe your dogs and cats when they come back inside. Otherwise, they spread allergens to carpet, furniture and clothing.”
Managing Allergies With Medication
It’s difficult to completely avoid seasonal allergens when the air is thick with pollen. For most allergy sufferers, over-the-counter medications and nasal sprays provide welcome relief.
“Over-the-counter medication is a simple way to alleviate allergies — as long as it doesn’t interact with your prescription medicine, especially blood pressure medications,” said Castellaw. “Always check with your doctor to find out if it’s safe for you to take nonprescription Allegra, Claritin or Zyrtec.”
Steroid sprays like Flonase and Nasacort are also available without a prescription. Patients with severe symptoms can see an allergist to determine if allergy shots may be necessary to find relief.
“For most people, over-the-counter steroid nose sprays and non-drowsy antihistamines are very effective at relieving watery eyes, itchy noses, mucus production and sneezing,” said Castellaw.