Seasonal Allergies

Spring is finally here! After a long, cold winter you can’t wait to get outside and experience all of its glory. But, about halfway through the yard work, your eyes start to itch. Really itch! In fact, just looking at your neighbor’s tree will cause you to sneeze. Before you know it, your nose is so stuffy that you’re reevaluating the lilacs in the yard and wondering if you have any allergy medication left from the fall.

Seasonal allergies, often referred to as “hay fever,” affect millions of Americans each year. Traditional symptoms include watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose and congestion. If left unchecked, these symptoms may go on to cause sinus infections and asthma exacerbations.

Individuals may develop allergies to numerous substances including plants, pet dander, dust, mold, medications and food. Seasonal allergies refer specifically to those substances, mainly pollen, that circulate in the air during the spring, summer and fall. Tree pollen causes most of the trouble in the spring, while grass and ragweed pollen are the culprits in the fall.  The National Allergy Bureau provides regional pollen counts throughout the year.

Several treatment options are available for allergy sufferers. Conservative measures include closing windows, frequent washing of sheets and showering before bed. Nasal steroid sprays continue to be a mainstay of treatment for nasal congestion. These may be prescribed or purchased over the counter. Antihistamines are also available over the counter and are very useful in controlling symptoms. Older antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, are usually dosed more frequently and may cause drowsiness. However, newer antihistamines, like cetirizine or loratadine, have a once a day dosing schedule and are typically nonsedating. Always remember to speak with your health care provider before starting allergy medication, as it may interact with other chronic medications or health conditions! If no relief is found, referral to an allergist may be warranted. In the right circumstances, allergists proceed with subcutaneous immunotherapy, or allergy shots. These are useful for patients sensitive to pollen, dust mites, pet dander and molds.

Remember to see your health care provider for prolonged or severe allergy symptoms!  Any trouble breathing, rash, trouble swallowing or swelling requires a quick and timely evaluation! –J Wiekamp