Treating Seasonal Allergies


Everyone around you rejoices when the weather changes and the sun starts shining. But you can’t help looking at the air quality reports with dread, thanks to the relentless sneezing and eye-watering caused by your seasonal allergies. Treating seasonal allergies can help.

There are many ways to make seasonal allergies less of an issue, however. The trick is finding the right one for you and your allergy symptoms.

Avoidance

Allergic reactions occur because your immune system classifies or misidentifies a specific trigger as a threat. When you have seasonal allergies, something like a spec of pollen might generate the same immune reaction as a virus or bacteria.

That’s why sometimes the best way to treat seasonal allergies is simply to avoid your triggers. While specific triggers can vary, most people with seasonal allergies are coping with pollen from one plant or another (along with the occasional fungal spore).

Treating seasonal allergies can be as simple as avoiding pollen:

  • Check pollen counts for your area and get an app that sends you alerts when your allergens are high.
  • Get to know what time of year your particular allergens are likely to be highest.
  • Avoid being outside when pollen counts are high. Pollen counts are often highest early in the morning and at night. This also means you should avoid having your windows open during these periods.
  • Change clothes after you’ve been outside. The pollen will cling to shirts, shorts, socks–you name it. So it’s best to switch into something that hasn’t been exposed.
  • If you have time, a quick rinse in the shower could help get that pollen off your body and out of your hair, too.
  • Watch the weather. You’ll want to avoid windy and dry conditions. Instead, go outside just after it’s been raining (the rain will knock all the pollen to the ground, making it easier for you to breathe.)
  • Avoid mowing the lawn (or gardening). During those months when your seasonal allergies are the worst, you’ll want to avoid outdoor chores whenever possible.
  • Avoidance will be easier (and less impactful on your life) when you have a firm understanding of what your allergy triggers may be. Allergy testing can help you identify your triggers and a treatment plan.

Indoor air

Most of us live in homes that are well insulated but not hermetically sealed. Air can flow into and out of your home, and that can expose you to some of your allergic triggers, such as pollen. As a result, keeping your air clean is one of the best ways to avoid and treat seasonal allergies.

You could take steps such as using a HEPA filter (or a vacuum with a HEPA filter), running your air conditioning when possible, and closing your windows to keep your air clean. Using high-efficiency filters can also help mitigate symptoms.

Over-the-counter treatments

For many individuals suffering from seasonal allergies, over-the-counter remedies are a constant companion. These are medications you can purchase from your local pharmacy without requiring a prescription; however, they should all be used carefully, thoughtfully, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Some of the most popular over the counter treatments include:

Decongestants: A decongestant is designed to minimize stuffiness. There are many popular brands of this type of medication, though the actual medication will sometimes vary. Decongestants may be a good short-term solution if you’re feeling extremely stuffed up or if you feel like your nose is plugged. It can also help prevent a sinus infection. However, treating seasonal allergies with decongestants may not be the best choice because using decongestants over long periods is not good for your health. If your nose is runny, other medications may be more effective.

Oral antihistamines: Oral antihistamines work to counteract your body’s allergic reaction, so they work well for typical allergies and seasonal allergies (but not for food allergies). Oral antihistamines can help you get through your day, but there could be downsides. Some people complain of drowsiness, headaches, dry mouth, and other side effects.

Nasal sprays: Sprays have also been shown to be effective at minimizing allergy symptoms. Though, in most cases, nasal sprays are most effective when used before exposure to allergy triggers. In this way, nasal sprays can be useful if you know you’ll be exposed (for example, if you need to go to an outdoor event or do some yard work).

Nasal irrigation: Some patients also see improvement when they use saline solutions to irrigate the sinuses and nose. These can come as a spray, in a can, or as a solution. It helps to thin mucus and also wash away pollen trapped in the nasal passage.

When you need to see a doctor for treating seasonal allergies

Sometimes over-the-counter remedies are not ideal or effective. If you feel you fall into that category, set an appointment with an allergist to talk about prescription medications and treatments. One of the most popular such forms of treatment is called an allergy shot. Once your doctor knows your precise allergens, allergy shots can be used to desensitize your immune system to those triggers one tiny bit at a time.

Allergy shots can give you relief from your symptoms. Over time, that relief can become effectively permanent. As a result, allergy shots are especially popular among those who suffer from seasonal allergies. This may be a more effective, long-term treatment as allergy season seems to be growing more severe and long-lasting with every passing year.

Remember: treatment for seasonal allergies–no matter how severe–is available. If you have questions about your seasonal allergies, talk to your doctor today.

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