Here Comes Allergy Season: How to Prepare, Protect, and Treat Your Symptoms.
Winter is in its final phases and the spring season is rapidly approaching. Spring brings with it the return of blooming flowers, trees, and grasses, but if you are one of the up to 30 percent of Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies it also means a return of sneezing, runny nose, and congestion. While seasonal allergies may make you miserable there are easy strategies and treatments that can help you control your symptoms and let you enjoy the season.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
· Sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion
· Itchy or red eyes
· Cough, irritability, and fatigue are also common symptoms
· Some people may also experience itching of the throat or ear
What causes seasonal allergies?
· Most seasonal allergies are caused by pollens from trees, grasses, or weeds
· They are also caused by mold spores which grow best in humid or wet conditions
· These substances, sometimes called allergens, are usually breathed in where your body then reacts as if they are harmful, causing symptoms
Can I avoid my seasonal allergies?
· Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers
o Stay indoors on windy days
o Remove clothes that you have worn outside to avoid any pollen or other allergens that may be on them
o You may also want to shower or rinse your skin and hair before bedtime to avoid contamination of bedding
· Keep indoor air clean
o Keep house and car windows closed and use air conditioners to filter the air during periods of peak symptoms
o Use a dehumidifier to keep indoor air dry
· Watch for times when pollen counts are high
o Pollen counts are regularly reported by local TV and radio stations, as well as local newspapers
o If pollen counts are high you may want to start taking allergy medication before symptoms appear
o Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are the highest
What are the Over-the-Counter options for treating seasonal allergies?
· Nasal sprays (steroid)
o Nasacort (triamcinolone) and Flonase (fluticasone) are nasal steroid sprays that are effective in relieving total nasal symptoms
o Relief is typically seen in a few hours after beginning use but best results are seen if taken daily
o Common side effects include headache and nasal irritation (including bloody nose)
o You may want to use a decongestant for the first few days with these medications to open up your sinus and make it easier for the medications to work
o Use of these medications may be more difficult than oral antihistamines but they may be the most effective treatment for patients with significant nasal symptoms
· Oral antihistamines
o Your classic “allergy medications,” oral antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose, and watery eyes
o Examples of the newer antihistamines include: loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra)
o Older antihistamine include: diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton). These are effective but may make you feel tired
o Decongestants are available as oral products such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and phenylephrine or nasal sprays such as oxymetazoline (Afrin)
o Pseudoephedrine can only be purchased at the pharmacy counter and a photo ID must be presented at purchase
o Both forms can provide temporary relief of nasal congestion or “stuffiness”
o Nasal sprays should not be used for longer than 3 days at a time as long-term use can actually worsen symptoms
· Sinus rinses
o Rinsing your sinuses with distilled sterile saline solution with products like a neti pot or other nasal saline sprays is a quick and inexpensive way to relieve nasal congestion
o Sinus rinses can directly remove mucous and allergens from your nose
o Make sure that the bottle or neti pot that you use is clean and that only sterile distilled saline is used
Are there any other natural options available?
· Yes, herbal products are available but have very limited evidence for use in seasonal allergies
· These options may also interact with your prescription medications so make sure to speak with your pharmacist before use
What is the safest option for my child?
· For children = 2 years old:
o Cetirizine and fexofenadine are safe in children = 6 months of age
o Cetirizine, fexofenadine, and loratadine are all available in liquid forms
o Older antihistamines such as diphenhydramine are typically avoided in young children and infants
· Children older than 2 years of age.
o Treatment is usually the same as in adults
Please ask your Degen Berglud pharmacist if you have any questions about your seasonal allergies!
All information was adapted from the following resources.
1. May Clinic. Seasonal allergies: Nip them in the bud. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/in-depth/seasonal-allergies/art-20048343. Updated July 27, 2012. Accessed March 16, 2015.
2. Corliss J, Crowley K, Elbaum DA, Long GJ. Patient information: Seasonal allergies in adults (The Basics) In: UpToDate, Post TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA. (Accessed on March 16, 2015.)
3. deShazo RD, Kemp SF. Pharmacotherapy of allergic rhinitis. In: UpToDate, Post TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA. (Accessed on March 16, 2015.)