It's that time of year when allergy sufferers start to experience increased sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, or a scratchy throat, due to high grass and tree pollen counts. Seasonal allergies, also sometimes called "hay fever," affect millions of people each year. Symptoms can be minor, or they can be more disruptive such as chronic sinus infections, or breathing difficulty associated with asthma.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, lifestyle interventions and medications can provide relief. Here's what you need to know about living with seasonal allergies.
Find Out What's Causing Your Symptoms
Do not treat yourself without talking with your doctor first. Some over-the-counter drugs might not work for you. It's important to find the cause of your symptoms and make sure they are treated correctly and effectively. Ask your doctor about a test that can help identify what you might be allergic to.
Reduce Your Exposure to Allergens
Reducing your exposure to allergens can help prevent the sniffles, coughing, and sneezing associated with allergy season.
Keep your house and car windows closed during the allergy season.
Use air conditioning if needed.
If possible, reduce or eliminate plants in your yard or home that cause you to react.
If you have specific tasks related to something you are allergic to – such as mowing the lawn – swap chores with someone who isn't affected.
If you've got yardwork to do, wear a dust mask to minimize your exposure to pollens and other airborne allergens.
Weed control can also help to reduce symptoms.
Learn the Daily Pollen Count
Local newspapers and TV stations report daily pollen counts during allergy season. The National Allergy Bureau posts the daily pollen count online. On days when the counts are very high, it is better to be indoors as much as possible and wait for days with lower counts for outdoor activities.
Medications often bring relief for seasonal allergy sufferers. But they can also cause additional symptoms such as dryness, coughing, drowsiness, decreased concentration, and even irregular heart rhythms. Here's what you need to know about medications commonly used to treat seasonal allergies.
Antihistamines come in two varieties – drowsy and non-drowsy formulas. For many people, the non-drowsy antihistamines offer quick relief. Unfortunately, the non-drowsy types do not always work as well as the ones that cause drowsiness. This limits the amount of medication some people can take and the time of day they can take it. In other words, it is better to take the "drowsy" medication at night and avoid using it during the day when peak concentration is needed for driving or work.
Side effects of antihistamines include drowsiness, decreased concentration, dryness, and coughing. Antihistamines can also worsen glaucoma, prostate disorders, and lung conditions. They should not be taken along with other sedating medications such as tranquilizers or antidepressants. It is very important to only take the amount that is recommended for the prescribed length of time.
Decongestants are another popular type of medication that people take to relieve a stuffed or runny nose. Side effects include jitteriness, headaches, insomnia, irregular heartbeats, and elevated blood pressure. Ironically, overuse of nasal decongestants can also cause a chronic runny nose. Medications should only be used as directed on the package and you should not exceed the recommended dosages or length of use.
Nasal steroids can reduce nasal inflammation and effectively reduce the symptoms of a runny and stuffed nose. But there are side effects of nasal steroid use, such as nasal irritation and stinging, increased sneezing, headaches, and nosebleeds.
Talk with your doctor about the medications that are available for allergy symptoms. Learn about the benefits and the potential side effects. Medications to combat allergy symptoms can be an important part of a seasonal allergy sufferer's plan to reduce symptoms. But it's more important to reduce your exposure to allergy triggers.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
National Allergy Bureau.