It may seem early to start thinking – or suffering from – springtime allergies, but they have been in evidence for several weeks, with tree pollen being exceptionally high for this time of year.
Sometimes the length of allergy season can be just as important as its intensity. We are already seeing three to five patients a week with symptoms, with about 70% indeed suffering from allergy conditions.
What should you be doing to prevent the springtime sniffles? My best advice is to stay indoors on dry, windy days; the best time to go outside is after a rain that helps clear pollen from the air. Keep in mind that pollen counts are highest during the early morning.
Mowing the lawn or doing other gardening chores can also stir up allergens. Try wearing a mask if you are doing outside work, and keep track of pollen levels, which are typically included in weather reports or can be found online. If there is high pollen, take allergy medications before your symptoms start.
Close your doors and windows at night when pollen counts are high. In addition, use air conditioning in your house and car; if you have forced air heating or air conditioning in your house, use high-efficiency filters. You should also keep your indoor air dry with a dehumidifier, and use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom.
In addition, there are many over-the-counter medications that can help control your allergies, including cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra) and loratadine (Claritin). Nasal steroids like Flonase, Rhinocort, and Nasocort can also help, as can sinus irrigation. Most pharmacies sell kits for the latter, which involves rinsing the nasal passages with saline solution directly to flush out mucus and allergens from your nose.
If allergen avoidance and medicine is not sufficient, evaluation by an allergist for either skin tests or blood tests to find what you are allergic to can be helpful. A simple scratch test can be very helpful in identifying what types of substances pose the greatest allergic threat to you.
Allergy shots can be a treatment option as well. These involve going to an allergist’s office regularly for an injection, then waiting 30 minutes to see if there is any reaction that the shot has not suppressed. For some allergies, treatment can be given under the tongue.
Taking these precautions, and seeking out proper treatment, can make the allergy season more tolerable. If you do not have an allergist, your regular physician can recommend one.