April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring pollen (not pilgrims), and pollen brings itchy/watery eyes, clogged ears, runny noses, sneezing and general misery for many. Springtime is not a magical time for all.
Springtime allergies are typically triggered by inhaled pollen. Pollen is a tiny particle released by grasses, trees, and the like. For those who are sensitive, pollen triggers a series of reactions that lead to the release of a chemical called histamine. Histamines cause inflammation and irritation of tissues that ultimately causes symptoms in the eyes/ears/nose/throat and sometimes lungs.
Several strategies can be helpful for seasonal allergies:
-Pollen counts tend to be higher on dry/windy days as pollen is carried through the air. Try to minimize your time outside when counts are high. You can get up-to-the-minute information on your desktop or mobile device here.
-Keep your home and car windows closed on high pollen count days. Consider an air conditioner rather than a fan
-Avoid early morning outdoor activities – that is when pollen counts tend to be highest
-Avoid grass cutting and gardening. If you do, make sure you remove your clothes and wash them as soon as possible
-Oral medications – These medications are best for people with multiple allergy symptoms. Most allergy tablets – once only available by prescription – are now available over –the-counter (otc). Loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra) are available plain and with a decongestant. They are all considered non-sedating, but can still cause drowsiness. Those with a decongestant can sometimes cause jitteriness or insomnia. There is no one tablet that is better than another. There are a handful of prescription antihistamines, but they do not have an advantage over the otc products. One prescription medication, montelukast (Singulair), typically used for asthma, can sometimes be beneficial for allergies as well.
- Nasal sprays – These medications are best for sinus/nasal symptoms. The nasal steroid triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ) is now available without a prescription as is the non-steroid spray cromolyn sodium (Nasalcrom). Prescription medications include nasal steroids and nasal antihistamines. Nasal sprays tend to work best when taken several weeks before allergy symptoms begin.
-Eye drops – These are best for eye only issues, or when using a different product and still having eye symptoms. Most over-the-counter eye drops for allergies have ketotifen as the active ingredient, and there are many brands to choose from. There are several different varieties of prescription eye drops which can be quite effective.
All medications have side effects. Check with your health care provider to find the one that is right for you.
If do not have relief from otc products, or, if your symptoms are severe, you should seek medical attention.
Enjoy the sunshine!