Spring time is coming soon or is already here for many parts of the country. Along with the warm weather and birds singing we also see large amounts of tree and grass pollen. For those of us that suffer from spring time allergies this can be a really tough time of year with symptoms such as runny/congested noses, itchy/watery eyes, and (in some) increased cough and wheezing. We manage allergies in three ways:
1. Avoidance: Pollen is prevalent in the southeast for 9 – 10 months a year. It’s difficult to avoid pollen, but simple avoidance measures such as keeping bedroom windows closed, using central or window air conditioning and changing filters monthly can help. Also, shower and shampoo hair as soon as you are done working or playing outside, and keep animals outdoors as they carry pollen on their coats. Click here to see our Environmental Control Handbook. Keep track of pollen counts to know when allergen levels are high.
2. Medications: A variety of medications are useful in treating symptoms. Antihistamines are useful for alleviating itching and sneezing, while decongestants alleviate congestion. Nasal sprays (both steroid and antihistamine) effectively treat many nasal symptoms while a variety of antihistamine eye drops are available for eye symptoms. Many allergy sufferers start their medication regimen before pollen season begins to prevent symptoms from becoming too severe. If you suffer from asthma, there are different types of inhaler medications that can treat ongoing symptoms and others that help prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place.
3. Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a very effective treatment for allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and asthma. Unlike medications that treat symptoms only, immunotherapy desensitizes the immune system and prevents symptoms from developing in the first place. Immunotherapy is effective in approximately 85% of patients and reduces symptoms, decreased the need for medications and may prevent asthma in young children. There are multiple studies that show that immunotherapy decreases health care costs in both adults and children. Immunotherapy also has the potential to create long term relief from allergy symptoms even after the treatment is completed. Immunotherapy is traditionally given as allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy), but a newer method is with allergy drops under the tongue (sublingual immunotherapy).
If you have symptoms that are uncontrolled please talk to your trusted health care provider. If you haven’t already seen an allergist consider doing so, they can provide you with detailed information on what you are actually allergic to and give you the best treatment options available. As always, you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily pollen counts, office information and more.
Dr. Ananth Thyagarajan (Dr. T.)