THAT NEIGHBORHOOD FREE HEALTH CLINIC
Summer has started and so have your allergies!! Seasonal allergies affect millions of Americans every year with discomforts such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and eyes are watery or itchy.
Allergies can come in two forms:
Seasonal—Symptoms occur in spring, summer or fall and are usually due to pollen or mold spores
Perennial—Symptoms occur all year round. Causes include dust mites, pet dander, mold, and cockroaches.
Allergies that occur in the spring/summer are known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. An allergy occurs when a person’s immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance, known as an allergen. When a person has an allergy, the body produces antibodies that travel to the cells that release histamines and other chemicals.
Histamines cause swelling in the nose and eyes in an attempt to stop allergens from entering the body. Histamines cause sneezing to remove the allergens from the nose. The main cause of spring/summer allergies are the pollen that grows and reproduces during the season.
Plants produce these tiny grains for reproduction. While some plants rely on insects to spread their pollen, some other plants use the wind. Pollen spread by the wind is the main cause of allergy symptoms in people with pollen allergies.
Tree pollen is most common in the early spring, grass pollen is prevalent in the late spring and summer and ragweed explodes during the fall.
Changes in weather can also affect how much pollen these plants release. Warm days increase plant growth and fertilization, whereas rainy days dampen the spread of pollen. Windy days help pollen to spread more easily, which can increase a person’s allergy symptoms.
Spring/summer allergy symptoms include:
• Watery eyes
• Runny nose
• Itchy eyes, nose, ears, and mouth
• Stuffy nose due to congestion
• Puffy eyes
• Post nasal drip
• Coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing
The goal is to prevent exposure to pollen or mold:
• Check local pollen counts and limit time outside when pollen counts are high
• Keep grass short
• Wear a dust mask when mowing the lawn and gardening
• Keep all windows closed if possible and use allergy friendly filters on air conditioning units
• Bathe and wash hair daily to remove pollen
• Wash bed linen once a week
• Change and wash clothes after being outside
• Dry clothes in dryer if possible, instead of outdoors
• Remove shoes before entering the house
• Wear hats and sunglasses when outside to limit pollen entering the eyes and landing in the hair
• Vacuum floors at least once a week
• Be aware that pets can carry pollen into your house, therefore do not sleep with your pets during allergy season
Treatments include medication as well as home remedies:
• Saline rinse: can relieve a stuffy nose and congestion by thinning out extra mucus from the nasal passages. The solution can also clear out allergens from the nostrils and sinuses. Look for a squeeze bottle or neti-pot at your pharmacy.
• HEPA (High- Efficiency Particulate Air) Filters: can trap airborne irritants such as pollen, dust, and pet dander in filter and reduce allergens in your home.
• Air conditioners and dehumidifiers: remove the moisture from the air and thereby reducing the growth of mildew and mold that can negatively impact allergies.
Oral antihistamines: such as loratadine (Claritin, Alavert). Cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy) and fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy) can relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose and watery eyes.
Decongestants: such as oral pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Afrinol) can product temporary relief of nasal stuffiness. Nasal sprays such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine) can shrink the lining of the nasal passages and reduce stuffiness. Only use nasal decongestants for a few days in a row because long term use can worsen symptoms by causing “rebound” congestion!
Nasal Spray: such as cromolyn sodium nasal spray can ease allergy symptoms and doesn’t cause side effects, and it is most effective when you begin using BEFORE your symptoms start.
Eye drops: can provide short term relief for redness, swelling and itching in your eyes.
Nasal corticosteroids: which is a type of nasal spray that reduces inflammation and is very effective for allergic rhinitis.
Immunotherapy is a long-term solution that aims to desensitize people for their allergies. Doctors may use immunotherapy to treat people who experience side effects or have no benefit from medication. Two types of immunotherapy are allergy shots and sublingual tablets.
Allergy shots involve having the allergen injections for 3-5 years. These injections build up resistance to the allergen. Sublingual tables only treat certain types of allergies and are giving to a person every day for up to 3 years. A person can start taking the pills in the months BEFORE spring.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and treatment to relieve those symptoms!
(Sources: Mayo Clinic; CDC and American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology)
THAT NEIGHBORHOOD FREE HEALTH CLINIC