Battling Springtime Allergies

Spring is a time for fresh-cut grass, fragrant blossoms and budding trees. But if you’re one of the 35 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, spring is also a time for sniffling, sneezing and watery eyes. Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, are a common allergic reaction to airborne particles like pollen or spores. The body mistakenly recognizes these foreign substances as being harmful and releases antibodies to fight them. When these antibodies attack the allergens, histamines are released into the bloodstream, resulting in those bothersome allergy symptoms.

There is no cure for seasonal allergies, but many individuals can find substantial relief by limiting their exposure to allergens and taking steps to treat their symptoms. If allergies tend to strike you around this time of year, there’s no need to lock yourself indoors and throw away the key! Take these steps to get your allergies under control so you can enjoy the season.

Identify the Cause

Effective allergy treatment starts at the source, so it’s important to identify your allergy triggers. An allergy skin test, also called a scratch test, can be performed by an allergist or your family doctor. This quick and inexpensive test involves pricking various allergen extracts into the outer layer of skin. After approximately 15 to 20 minutes, the doctor checks for allergic reactions such as hives, redness or swelling to identify which substances are responsible for your allergies.

Use OTC Medications

Over-the-counter medications can be extremely helpful in controlling allergy symptoms. Some medications that can provide allergy relief include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Steroid nasal sprays (Flonase and Nasacort)
  • Cromolyn sodium nasal sprays
  • Eye drops

Although these medications are available without a prescription, it is still wise to take them under a doctor’s supervision, especially if you are currently taking other medications. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness, and decongestants should not be taken long-term, so be sure to check with your doctor before adding these to your regimen (Source: WebMD).

Limit Exposure to Allergens

You don’t have to spend the entire season indoors to avoid allergens, but there are some precautions you can take to limit your exposure.

  • Remain indoors on days when the pollen count is high.
  • Wash your hair and clothes after spending time outside.
  • Change air filters regularly.
  • Keep windows closed in your home and your car, which will prevent pollen from settling on the upholstery.
  • Dust with a damp cloth and vacuum carpets twice a week. Be sure to change the bag or filter on your vacuum to prevent pollen from recirculating.

Many cases of seasonal allergies can be controlled by avoiding irritants and using over-the-counter medications, but if symptoms are severe or lead to serious complications like asthma, schedule an appointment with your doctor. More aggressive treatments like prescription medications or allergy shots may be necessary to make your symptoms more manageable.