Seasonal allergies and allergic rhinitis cause a great degree of discomfort and irritation for millions of patients across the U.S. As the seasons change, people hide in fear as pollen rains down and wreaks havoc on sensitive nasal passages. The good news is that there are a few things we can all do to survive allergy season and make sure we live in peace with our allergens, whether they be grass, ragweed, flower, dog, or cat.
- identify which pollens, their respective seasons, or other sources to which you may be allergic
- try an over-the-counter allergy medication
- consider nasal saline rinses or sterile water neti pots
- follow up with your primary care physician or other provider if symptoms persist
- stay hydrated, eat healthy, and exercise
- ignore the symptoms
- put off follow-up appointments with a physician
- fear the outdoors during allergy season
- always assume it’s a sinus infection
- limit your allergy fight to the outdoors
It’s important to know which allergens personally affect you and during what time of the year they arise. This knowledge allows you to anticipate when you need to take over-the-counter allergy medications more regularly. If you anticipate and take medication before symptoms arise, you’re more likely to decrease the severity of symptoms and prevent severe attacks and sinus infections from brewing. Recognizing the early signs of an allergy attack can help to prevent the more severe symptoms.
There are many remedies, particularly, non-drowsy antihistamines, that are available over the counter that help prevent and ease the symptoms of seasonal allergies. Medications like Allegra (fexofenadine), Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and others work to suppress the body’s immune response to many allergens. It’s important to note that some medications need a few days to work, while others work as soon as you start taking them, but the key is anticipating what seasons are worse for you and try to pre-medicate before you’re in the throes of a sinus headache.
These nasal rinses can help to clear allergens and mucus from the nasal passages, helping to alleviate some congestion. It’s important to use sterile saline or sterile water when using neti pots because contaminants or bacteria from the water can be transferred to the sinuses and lead to worsening irritation and infection. Follow instructions from neti pots, squeeze bottles, or nasal rinses purchased from the pharmacy closely.
If the remedies you’ve tried don’t seem to be working, your primary physician may recommend prescription medication, including nasal sprays like Flonase, or other allergy medications like Singulair. Also, your physician may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, allergist, or immunologist if your symptoms persist. Allergy testing is a possible option, as well as scoping the sinuses or imaging with CT scans to see if your anatomy or nasal polyps are contributing to the problems.
While lifestyle changes may not prevent seasonal allergies, staying healthy by eating right and exercising can help fight off potential infections caused by inflammation and irritation from seasonal allergies.
If you start to notice a pattern and feel a persistent cough, runny nose, or postnasal drip, it might be seasonal allergies. It’s important to note that even though you may never have had symptoms in the past, this year could be your year, or if you moved to a different place, even within the same state, new allergens can cause problems for you that you never experienced before.
If symptoms persist, follow up with your doctor, an ear, nose, and throat specialist or allergist/immunologist. These professionals can help you identify certain allergens to which you are sensitive and tailor a treatment regimen that may work for you.
There is no need to be fearful or inconvenienced by allergy season; just plan accordingly. News stories on daily broadcasts, newspapers, websites, and apps can help you track the pollen counts in your area. Choose times of day when it’s not as blustery and breezy to participate in your outdoor activities. Also, after a rain, the pollen is typically washed out of the air.
That increasing pressure and sore throat may just be an allergy flare-up and won’t warrant antibiotic treatment. Those sinus symptoms you think you feel might just be an exacerbation of your allergies or allergic rhinitis. When in doubt, see a health care provider, and they will examine you and determine the best course of action.
While most allergens you come in contact with are outside, you can protect yourself from allergens inside your home as well. Wash and change bedding and towels often; allergens can stick to these fabrics and continue to affect you. Also, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clear upholstery and carpets of any allergens that may remain. Keeping windows and doors closed can also help your electric bill stay low, while keeping allergens out.
While most people will experience seasonal allergies in their lifetimes, there are a number of ways to combat the nasal congestion, sinus pressure, headaches, runny noses, popping ears, postnasal drip, and sore throat symptoms associated with allergies. With medication, treatments and some friendly doctor advice, you won’t have to be sidelined by your allergies any longer!