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Ask the Doc - Seasonal Allergies

March 24, 2014

Q:  What can I do to try and beat my seasonal allergies this Spring?

A:   As you know, you are not alone as an allergy sufferer.  An estimated 40 million people in the US have some type of indoor/outdoor seasonal allergy.  And while it has been said that misery loves company, there’s really no reason to let seasonal allergens make you miserable.

Here's what you need to know to control your allergy symptoms this Spring:

Get a Jump Start

Spring pollen season starts as soon as the weather warms up enough for the trees to begin budding (generally by March in the Midwest).  This is the time to start taking any regular seasonal allergy medications in order to prevent a snowball effect of symptoms.

Minimize Exposure to Allergens

Reduce allergens circulating in your home by using a high-efficiency furnace filter and changing it early spring and again early summer.  It’s also advisable to monitor pollen counts in your area and try to schedule outdoor activities when counts are low and the day is not windy.  Protective allergy masks and HEPA filters have benefits as well. 

Find a Suitable OTC Medication

There are three main kind of over-the-counter (OTC) medications used to help control season allergies:  nasal sprays; oral antihistamines; and decongestants.  Any of these three may provide relief to seasonal allergies, but it’s important to weigh the risks versus the benefits.  It’s advisable to consult your family physician to determine which OTC medication is appropriate for you.

Seek Professional Help

When OTC medications fail to provide the relief you need, it’s time to see your physician.  For some, prescription medication can alleviate the symptoms. Others may benefit from immunotherapy (shot therapy).   If your family physician believes allergy testing is needed, you will be referred to an allergist to determine which specific allergens are contributing to your symptoms.  With that information you and your doctor will be able to develop a treatment plan to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.

The important thing to remember is that there is no reason to suffer from a treatable condition.