How to Prevent and Treat Seasonal Allergies
Nasal allergies from irritants like pollen affect as many as 30 percent of all adults and 40 percent of children throughout the United States, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. That equates to tens millions of people who suffer symptoms ranging from runny noses, stuffiness, sneezing, itchy eyes, asthma and even dizziness. If you or any of your family members have seasonal allergies, here are some steps you can take to minimize the symptoms and build your resistance against common allergy triggers.
How Allergies Develop
Allergies are more common in the spring and summer when trees, grass and weeds are growing. Tiny microspores within these living plants emit pollen grains that become airborne. People then inhale or get these grains on their clothes, according to the University of Tulsa, which causes adverse reactions. If people are sensitive to certain airborne irritants, their immune systems react by releasing chemicals known as histamines. The histamines then cause inflammation of the mucus membranes which, in turn, produces the symptoms.
Avoid Major Allergens
One of the best ways to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid the outdoors. Pollen counts are highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the spring, according to Mayo Clinic. Close the windows of your house and run the air conditioning when allergen counts are high. Also, keep the windows shut and run the air conditioning in your car when you drive to and from work. Since these allergens collect on your clothes, take them off when you get home and throw them in the laundry. Take a shower to rinse the grains off your body and out of your hair.
Use Over-The-Counter Medications
Another way to control seasonal allergies from grass, trees and weeds is to take antihistamines such as loratadine, fexofenadine and brompheniramine. Contact your doctor or allergist to see which one he recommends. You can also use nasal sprays such as fluticasone and azelastine to prevent or minimize symptoms. Fluticasone is not recommended for children under four years-old.
If you or any family members have severe allergies to common allergens outdoors, you may need to get immunization shots. If so, have your doctor recommend an allergist to administer the injections. The first step in getting immunized is to be tested. The testing usually commences with a skin test where a drop of the allergen, be it specific trees, grass or mold, is inserted just beneath the skin on the forearms or back, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAFA). The size of the welt will then determine whether or not you’re allergic to the allergen. Allergy shots are usually given every two to four weeks when you’re first starting out. Your allergist may then move to a monthly schedule.
The AAFA recommends several other treatments for more severe spring allergy symptoms, including oral corticosteroids and decongestants. Oral corticosteroids or bronchodilators like albuterol sulfate can help relieve asthma symptoms. Other corticosteroids such as fluticasone can help prevent asthma symptoms from occurring. Decongestants reduce stuffiness by shrinking mucus membranes in the nasal passages, according to the AAFA. You can also take guaifenesin to reduce allergy-related mucus in your nose and lungs. Low-dose allergen therapy is another more experimental treatment for allergies, but it’s very expensive. This therapy uses very small doses of allergens along with an enzyme called beta glucuronidase to potentiate the effects of the allergens, according to Dr. W.A. Shrader, Jr. of the Santa Fe Center for Allergy & Environmental Medicine. However, the treatment is more geared toward people with inhalant, food and chemical allergies.