The itchy eyes. The stuffy nose. The awful sneezing. Allergy season is on its way!As snow thaws and winter turns to spring, trees, grasses, weeds, and ragweed release pollen into the air, causing more than fifty million of us to suffer from annual seasonal allergic rhinitis. If hay fever is your springtime nemesis, take these five steps to fight back.
1. Visit your doctor. See your primary care physician or an allergist now—before tiny molds and pollens sneak their way into your home via clothes, shoes, and open windows. She may prescribe a nasal steroid spray or eye drops and can recommend specific over-the-counter medications.
2. Know thy enemy. If you’re not sure what’s triggering your allergic symptoms, ask your doctor for an allergy test. The skin test takes less than an hour and will tell you whether grass, mold, or your dog is the villain (among other potential allergens). There are a couple of methods for this kind of testing. When my twelve-year-old son was tested, the doctor pricked the skin on his upper back with more than twenty different allergens. After about twenty minutes, he checked to see which ones were reacting. By identifying which specific allergens were the irritants, his allergist was able to customize his treatment. The result? Significantly more comfortable springs and autumns around here.
3. OTC counts, too. If your doctor doesn’t mention over-the-counter medicines, ask which she would recommend. There is a variety of OTC antihistamines, non-steroid nasal sprays and rinses, eye drops, and decongestants on the market. Rather than try to figure out what’s best, ask your doctor for her recommendation.
4. Avoid triggers. After being cooped up all winter, there’s nothing quite like throwing back the sash and letting the breeze in—unless you’re allergic to the tiny things the breeze carries. In that case, fresh air can make you miserable. If you open the windows and notice an uptick in your symptoms, batten down the hatches and rely on air conditioning or fans to cool your home. Avoiding allergens when possible will go a long way toward easing your discomfort.
5. Consider shots. If prescription and OTC medications don’t alleviate your seasonal rhinitis symptoms, you may want to talk with your physician about allergy shots. If he recommends this course of action, your physician will inject small doses of an extract of your particular allergen under your skin. Your physician will decide how often you need the shots, and for how long. Often, the entire process takes three to five years.
Written by: The original version of this article was written by Kirsetin Morello, a contributing writer for West Michigan Woman.