March madness is almost here! We are not just referring to college basketball, but also to those suffering from spring allergies!
Millions of people are affected every year with a variety of symptoms related to their allergies. These can include itchy watery eyes, runny or congested nose, post nasal drip, sinus pressure, and decreased taste or smell. Often people think that these symptoms are just those of a lingering cold. However, the common cold should resolve within a week or two. If your symptoms are persisting or recurrent, they may be a sign of allergies instead. Exposure to allergens, such as pollens, dust mites, animals, and molds, can cause irritation and inflammation to the lining of your nose, eyes and upper airway. This inflammation plays a major role in causing the above symptoms. If left untreated, over time this can lead to ear, sinus and/or respiratory infections.
As we look to end the cold snap from this past winter, warmer temperatures encourage pollination. Typically, trees (such as oak and birch tree) will generally start pollinating in March; grasses (such as Bermuda) in April, and weeds (such as ragweed) in August. If these allergens are the source of your symptoms, there are several options for treatment including avoidance measures, medications, and immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots.”
One of the easiest things you can do is look for ways to reduce or eliminate your exposure to allergens. For example, keeping your windows closed and using the air conditioning can help. Generally, the peak pollen count is between 8:00 am and 12:00 pm, and again between 5:00pm and 9:00 pm. Reconsidering outdoor activities during these times may help to lessen your symptoms. In addition, your clothing and hair are magnets for pollen, so showering and washing your hair after being outdoors for an extended time is another way to help reduce your exposure.
While avoidance of triggers can help reduce symptoms, this is often not enough to completely eliminate them. The next step is the use of medications to assist with controlling your symptoms. Targeting the specific problem – an eye drop for itchy, watery eyes or a nasal spray for a runny or congested nose frequently helps. Please discuss what the appropriate medication regimen may be with your health care provider to ensure maximum results with minimal side effects.
If these measures are inadequate to control your symptoms, allergen immunotherapy may be an excellent option for you. Allergen immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots” is a specific mixture of the proteins from pollens, molds, dust mites, or animal dander to which you are sensitive to as determined by allergy testing. These injections are designed to induce tolerance to your specific allergens over time, in essence “curing” you of your allergies. In an effort to increase this tolerance with minimal side effects, shots are slowly increased in amount and concentration over time. As you reach larger doses, you will likely notice a significant improvement in your allergy symptoms, likely eliminating the need for medications. In addition, these effects are extremely long lived, usually lasting indefinitely after you finish your course of shots!
If you feel that allergies are causing you “madness” this spring, please call your local allergist to get yourself on the road to feeling better, once and for all. We at Allergy Partners wish you a warm and beautiful spring, and hopefully not one that requires a tissue box!