Ahh, spring. You’re back. And although you’re much cooler than we expected, welcome.
But must you always bring the oak pollen and the elm and cedar? Isn’t it enough that another unusually mild winter wrought more suffering by triggering the allergy season earlier?
Ok, well, bless you, sneezes and all. Doctors say there are remedies for that.
Starting preventative medications before the pollen counts start to skyrocket may be the best medicine, said Dr. Jon E. Stahlman, a Lawrenceville allergist and president of The Georgia Allergy Society. These include antihistamines such as Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin as well as nasal steroids.
“Nasal steroids are available by prescription and take a period of a week or more to start to work in the nasal passages and sinuses but work very well and may even in some cases help with ocular symptoms,” he said. “Eye drops can be prescribed or purchased over the counter that are helpful too.”
Stahlman said that many people confuse some of the yellow or green pine pollen that accumulates on their cars in springtime as the cause of their symptoms but those pollen grains are very large and heavy and serve only as mild irritants as they are trapped in the nose. The smaller microscopic pollen such as oak when airborne can easily get into the nasal passages and sinuses and even into our lungs to trigger asthma in allergic individuals.
The sneezing, itchy eyes and, for some people, even wheezing is triggered by their immune system’s response to the spring pollen, he said.
Stahlman said that allergies are caused by special antibodies called IgE that trigger a cascade of events in our bodies that includes the release of multiple inflammatory mediators including histamine, which causes the itching, sneezing, and release of fluids in the tissues that cause our eyes or nose to swell up.
“Many children miss school this time of year, athletes miss out on sports, and people tend to get sinus infections or may even go to the hospital for their asthma in the spring,” he said.
Stahlman said that allergists can provide treatments for more severe cases that may include desensitization programs that can help patients lead normal lives but an old fashion rinse of the sinus passages with salt water (saline) can be very helpful and should not be forgotten.
Stahlman also offered these tips for dealing with seasonal allergies:
- Check the pollen count and learn what is in the air during your symptomatic season. Local pollen counts are usually available on ajc.com or online with a local allergist such as allergyinatlanta.com.
- After you know what you might be allergic to avoid it. Pollen counts are highest in the morning so switching your activities to the afternoon can help. Also change your clothes and take a shower or bath to avoid bringing pollen into your home. Changing your air filters on your HVAC system regularly in the spring and fall can also help.
- Take your medications. Most allergy medicine works best if you start them several days or weeks before your symptoms usually occur. Oral antihistamines can help quickly but most nasal sprays take time and should be started a week or two before your worst season.
- Seek proper advice early to avoid complications. Allergies can affect your school or work performance by interfering with sleep and causing fatigue. They also contribute to sinus infections and asthma. If you are suffering from allergy symptoms despite trying these tips and medication, contact your doctor or a board certified allergist.
- For more information see allergyinatlanta.com.