Tips for Coping with Spring Allergies
For many, spring provides sweet relief from the cold, dark, germ-infested winter. But for seasonal allergy sufferers, spring unleashes a miserable spiral of sneezing, coughing, itching, and sniffing. As plants become green and bright again, they release pollen into the air, triggering allergies for about 50 million Americans. The immune system mistakes the pollen for a dangerous foreign object, attacks it with antibodies, and releases histamines into the blood. It’s that chemical release that launches those bothersome allergy symptoms.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why some of us experience allergies but they suspect it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors. We are hopeful for a cure in the future, but in the meantime, here are some helpful tips on how to manage seasonal allergies.
Use an Antihistamine
Antihistamines work by blocking your body’s response to allergens. They’re ideal for sneezing, runny noses, watery eyes, and itchiness. There are a variety of OTC oral antihistamines and it could take some trial and error before you find the right one. Some are known to cause drowsiness and aren’t suitable for daytime use. Intranasal antihistamines are also available by prescription.
Try a Nasal Spray
A nasal spray may be the best option for targeting congestion and sinus drip. The following options are available OTC:
Intranasal corticosteroids, such as fluticasone, are some of the most effective OTC treatments for allergic rhinitis. They can take a couple of days or weeks to work, but you can use them long-term with little to no side effects. Many choose to use corticosteroids in conjunction with antihistamines for a broad-spectrum treatment.
Saline sprays and nose drops are a safe, natural alternative to allergy medications. Sodium chloride and purified water clear the sinuses of pollen and moisturize your nasal passages if they feel dry, raw, or itchy. Higher concentrations of sodium chloride can also temporarily help with congestion.
Nasal decongestant sprays, such as oxymetazoline, can immediately relieve nasal congestion for up to 12 hours. Sound like a dream? Not so fast. A decongestant spray is a powerful congestion fighter with one caveat: it can only be used short term. Using it for more than a few days can cause a rebound effect, resulting in worse or prolonged congestion. So save that spray for those extra bad days.
Irrigate Your Sinuses
Many find relief from regularly irrigating their sinuses. You can find pressurized cans of saline, traditional neti pots, and even machines designed to force salinated water through your nasal passages. The saline will typically go in through one nostril and then out the other, pushing pollen, dust, and mold spores out. It also clears away mucus and keeps your sinuses moisturized.
Nasal irrigation is generally considered safe, as long as you’re using purified water with an appropriate amount of sodium chloride. Tap water could contain harmful amoebas and not using the correct amount of sodium chloride will result in burning and discomfort.
Take a Decongestant
Oral decongestants are another OTC option for victims of congestion. Pseudoephedrine is the most widely available option and does alleviate congestion for many people. Some oral antihistamines even include pseudoephedrine to broaden the symptom relief in a single pill.
Oral decongestants, however, aren’t for everyone and can have serious side effects. Since they are stimulants and work by narrowing blood vessels in your nose, they can potentially narrow blood vessels in other parts of your body, as well. Long-term use can increase your risk for high blood pressure, elevated heart rates, nervousness, and sleeplessness.
Use Eye Drops
Dry, itchy eyes? Try eye drops. Gentle, hydrating eye drops can provide relief from dryness and redness. But if your eyes are distractingly itchy, you can give allergy eye drops a whirl. Equipped with antihistamines and redness relievers, these drops target eye allergies at their source.
Filter the Air
When spring has sprung, pollen is in the air. Aside from keeping your windows shut, you can help minimize allergen exposure by using filters. Replace your regular HVAC filters with HEPA ones, specially designed to filter out allergens. You can also use an external air purifier to “scrub” the air. And when you’re out and about, wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter pollen mask.
Regularly Clean Fabrics
Pollen, dust, and mold spores love to cling to fabric. Make sure to regularly clean your shoes, clothes, and bedding. If possible, remove carpet and drapes from your home or vacuum them daily. Though these tasks are time-consuming, the benefits will pay off.
Avoid Your Triggers
Do you know what you’re allergic to? If not, you need to find out. Schedule an appointment with an allergist to have an allergy test done. Once you identify your triggers, you can make plans to avoid them. Maybe you’ll need to remove those lilies from your garden. Or perhaps you’ll know to stay inside when the grass is cut.
When you’ve exhausted all other options, immunotherapy may be worth a “shot.” Also called allergy shots, immunotherapy works by exposing you to your allergy trigger in small doses over time until your immune system learns to fight it on its own. You’ll typically see an allergy doctor regularly for these injections until you see full results. For those with needle phobias, mouth drops are available, as well.
Breathe Clear Institute Will Help You Cope with Spring Allergies
Managing your allergy symptoms can be overwhelming. We’re blessed with so many treatment options these days but all those choices can cause confusion. The medical professionals at Breathe Clear Institute will treat you with a holistic approach, determined to get to the bottom of your allergy symptoms and present the right treatment plan. Our clinic is equipped with tools for allergy testing, immunotherapy, and other ENT services. Schedule your appointment today.