An estimated 40 million Americans suffer some type of “indoor/outdoor” allergy, known as seasonal allergies, hay fever or allergic rhinitis.
An early onset of spring in some parts of the country has not been welcomed for many allergy sufferers. Among the most common allergy triggers, are tree, grass and weed pollen. Which start with warmer temperatures.
Allergies have a strong genetic component – if your parents had allergies you’re far more likely to have them yourself, said James Sublett, MD, FACAAI, a clinical professor and section chief of pediatric allergy at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.
The best way to treat your allergies before they ruin your spring, is start early. If you take medication for spring time allergies, start them before the first tree begins to bud.
Allergies create an inflammatory response that is like a smoldering fire. If you can keep it smoldering rather than flaring, you’ll do a lot better, says Sublett. By starting your medication early, you’re less likely to have a snowball effect with your systems.
Three main kinds of over-the-counter (OTC) medications are used to help control seasonal allergies: topical nasal sprays, inhaled corticosteroids, and antihistamines; oral antihistamines; and decongestants.
If you have mild seasonal allergies, nasal sprays and inhalants and oral OTC antihistamines can both effectively manage your symptoms. Despite what you might have heard, antihistamines are not addictive, although they can lose some of their effectiveness over a few months.
If your symptoms are not controlled, consider switching brands periodically to make sure your medication is still packing the greatest punch. You may want to buy the kind that is called "nonsedating" on the label (unless you're planning to go straight to bed after taking them).
Sublett doesn't advise using OTC decongestants for allergies, although many people do. "They're designed for use with a cold, for seven days or less, while allergies last for weeks," Sublett explains. "They work by reducing the blood
flow to your nose, letting you breathe better." However, nasal decongestants should be taken on a short-term basis only. If used for more than a week, a disorder called rhinitis medicamentosa may occur, where rebound nasal congestion (when congestion returns and gets worse) occurs each time the medication wears off.
Also, oral decongestants can cause significant side effects, including an elevation in blood pressure, nervousness, and sometimes heart palpitations. If you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, or heart conditions, talk to your doctor first before trying decongestants.
One "don't" for coping with allergies indoors: vaporizers and humidifiers. "The droplets are so big that they don't get into your nose, and increasing the humidity in your home can lead to problems with mold and dust mites," says Sublett.
But if you have any questions about your allergy medication, ask your local pharmacist. They will be able to help guide you in the right direction to get your seasonal allergies under control.
*Source – WebMD Magazine, James Sublett, MC, FACAAI
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