Seasonal allergy symptoms can make you feel miserable. Knowing that the pollen will eventually go away doesn’t help right now. You and the 50 million Americans who have seasonal allergies need immediate relief.
If over-the-counter (OTC) products do not relieve your allergy symptoms, you may have severe allergies that need the attention of an allergy/asthma specialist.
What causes an allergy?
You can develop hay fever at any age, according to the Mayo Clinic, but most people are diagnosed as children or young adults. As you get older, symptoms generally become less severe.
Itchy, watery eyes and nose, sneezing, sore throat and hoarseness, sinus swelling and inflammation and mucus production. These symptoms are similar to the common cold. But, a cold gets better in three to five days; allergy symptoms can go on for months.
These top 10 tips are what the allergy specialists recommend to help reduce your suffering from seasonal allergies.
- Avoid your allergy triggers. The best treatment is to stay away from whatever causes your symptoms. You may be able to determine what makes your symptoms erupt. But if you’re not sure, you may need allergy testing to pinpoint what triggers symptoms.
- Consider using over-the-counter products. Using OTC oral antihistamine products can bring quick relief, but only if you use them soon enough and often enough while you’re having symptoms. Decongestants can thin mucus, and reduce swelling and sinus discomfort. Steroid nasal decongestants can help decrease inflammation and mucus production. Nasal steroid sprays are now available OTC and can be used safely for up to several weeks for congestion and allergy symptoms. There are also nasal decongestant sprays that contain “oxymetazoline” that help shrink blood vessels temporarily and reduce swelling in the nose to decrease congestion. However, they should only be used short-term and in low doses. Long-term use of nasal decongestant sprays can actually make symptoms worse. If you use a nasal decongestant for more than three days, it can cause rebound congestion. The oral form of decongestants is much safer than a nasal spray. Eye drops can provide moisture and reduce inflammation. When the forecast predicts high pollen counts, start taking allergy medications before symptoms start.
- Avoid your triggers. If you can, check the forecast before planning outside activities. Visitcom, enter your zip code, and get a reading of the day’s pollen levels before you leave the house. Stay inside on days when the pollen count is high. Pollen is the most common allergen, both in the spring and fall. Trees, grasses and weeds release a powdery “dust.” Most pollens are released in the morning hours. But, grass pollens are worse in the afternoon and early evening. Pollen travels best on dry, warm and breezy days. Allergens are grounded when there’s no wind. Tree, grass and ragweed pollens are worse when there are cool nights and warm days. Although rain can wash pollen away, it doesn’t stay gone for long. Pollen counts can spike soon after a rain. Mold allergies thrive in warm, humid, rainy conditions. Mold is a spore that grows on rotting logs, dead leaves and grasses. Mold can migrate indoors to warm moist places in kitchens, bathrooms and basements. Other substances that can cause allergic reactions include food (wheat, nuts, milk, eggs, etc.), pets, dust mites and skin allergies (poison ivy or oak, sumac, hives, insect stings or cosmetics).
- Learn about your allergies. An allergist can pinpoint what’s causing your misery. A certified allergist is a medical doctor who is an expert in treating allergies and asthma. After earning a medical degree, allergists must complete five to six additional years of training in internal medicine, asthma, allergies and the body’s immune system. An allergist can find the source of your symptoms and treat it, allowing you to be active all day, sleep well at night and feel good again.
- Control your air. Keep car and house windows shut during allergy seasons. Use air conditioning and be sure to change the replaceable filters in your home’s central heat/air system every one to three months. Use filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12. Change filters more often during allergy seasons. Wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask when cleaning your house, mowing the lawn or doing outside chores. Keep air clean with a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).
- Wash it away. Bathe or shower and wash your hair, change shoes and change (and launder) your clothes after you have been outdoors.
- Clean house. Regular, thorough housecleaning can get rid of many things that trigger allergies. Vacuum once or twice a week with a device that has a HEPA filter. Wash sheets weekly in hot water to kill dust mites and dry in a clothes dryer, never outdoors. Include any washable stuffed animals. Keep bathrooms free of mold by scrubbing tile. Get rid of clutter, boxes or clothing that can trap dust and insects. Sweep outside entryways, decks and patios to reduce tracked-in pollen. Don’t use scented cleaning products. Use a damp rag and mop to trap allergens. Clean washable material with a solution of 5 percent chlorine bleach to get rid of mold. Wear a protective mask during mold removal.
- Prevent flare-ups at home. Carpets and non-washable rugs trap allergens. Consider removing them and replacing with washable rugs or mats. Tile or hardwood floors will greatly reduce your exposure. To reduce pollens and dust inside, leave shoes outside. To keep dust mites out of your pillows, mattress and box springs, use dust-proof covers. Curtains, drapes and horizontal blinds trap dust and allergens. Use washable curtains and roller-type shades. Avoid upholstered furniture, replacing with wood, metal, plastic or leather coverings. Keep pets out of your bedroom. Bathing your pets once a week can reduce allergens from the dander they shed. Remove potted plants or cover the exposed dirt with aquarium gravel to contain mold. The smoke and gases from fireplaces can make breathing allergies worse. Most natural gas fireplaces won’t cause this reaction. In the kitchen, use an exhaust fan that is vented to the outside. Don’t allow any smoking inside your home.
- Immunotherapy can help. Immunotherapy usually involves allergy shots that can provide some relief for people who cannot get relief with antihistamines or nasal steroids. The shots (allergen immunotherapy) work by altering the body’s immune response to substances that cause allergy symptoms. Also known as desensitization, the regular injections contain tiny amounts of the substances that cause your allergies. Over time, these injections reduce the immune system’s reaction that causes symptoms. However, the shots can have side effects. If you have severe seasonal allergies, your doctor may recommend skin or blood tests to find out exactly what allergens trigger your symptoms. Testing can also identify which treatments will work best for you. For some allergies, tablets under the tongue are used. There are five key reasons why you should get treatment for severe allergy symptoms:
Immunotherapy may keep you from developing asthma.
Allergy symptoms can rob you of sleep, setting you up for chronic fatigue or sleep apnea.
Symptoms can wear down your immune system and lead to more serious inflammatory problems such as ear infections, chronic headaches, asthma, chronic sinus problems and eczema.
Unrelenting symptoms can inhibit your brain and keep you from being able to concentrate, remember things or be productive. This affects your school or work and can make it dangerous to drive or operate machinery.
Chronic symptoms that result in a lack of sleep or cause you to feel miserable can trigger irritability and mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Your health suffers but also your relationships with co-workers, family and friends.
- Probiotics may help. An analysis of 20 studies found that hay fever sufferers might benefit from using probiotics. These “good bacteria” are believed to promote a healthy gut. Having helpful bacteria in your gut can keep your immune system from flaring up in response to allergens. Fewer flare-ups mean fewer symptoms. Look for “live bacteria” or “live cultures” on the ingredient list when you buy probiotic products like yogurt or kefir.