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Ah, spring is in the air and if you’re one of the millions of Americans with seasonal allergies, blooming lilac and budding rosebushes aren’t the only thing you have to look forward to this season. The unpleasant symptoms of seasonal allergies – itchy, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and congestion – can make you miserable. Although recent advances in treatment are lacking, experts say the following tips may minimize seasonal allergy symptoms:
Triggers are anything that set off your allergy symptoms. Limiting exposure to allergy triggers may help reduce symptoms. Steer clear of pollen by staying indoors on dry, windy days. Ask a friend or loved one to mow the lawn or do the gardening. Remove pollen-laden outdoor clothing before coming indoors. Shower after coming in from outdoors to rinse pollen from skin and hair. Dry laundry indoors, instead of on an outdoor clothesline where pollen can stick to it. Wear a dust mask when doing outdoor chores.
When pollen counts are high, allergy symptoms go awry! Taking additional steps to protect yourself against pollen is key for reducing symptoms. Check daily pollen forecasts and outdoor pollen levels via television, the internet, radio, or local newspaper. When pollen counts are highest, be one step ahead of your symptoms by taking allergy medication before they start, keeping doors and windows closed, and remaining indoors in the early mornings.
Although it’s impossible to remove all allergens from indoor air, there are steps you can take to minimize them. Run the air conditioning in your home or automobile. Use high-efficiency filters and perform regular maintenance on forced-air heating systems or cooling units. Keep indoor air dry by using a dehumidifier. Use a high-efficiency, particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom. Vacuum carpets and floors with a unit equipped with a HEPA filter.
Over-the-counter medications that are designed to relieve allergy symptoms include oral anti-histamines (Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec), decongestants (Sudafed, Neo-Synephrine), a combination of the two (Claritin-D), and Cromolyn sodium nasal spray. If OTC medications are ineffective, talk to your doctor about additional options.
Clear mucus and allergens from your nasal passages with distilled, sterile saline and a neti pot that can be purchased online or from a local pharmacy or health food store. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean the device after each use.
There are a number of alternative medicines that may help relieve allergy symptoms including extract of the butterbur shrub and Spirulina. Be sure to talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe to use alternative medicine with any prescription medications you may be taking.
Many people find relief from allergy symptoms by avoiding triggers and using OTC medications. If home remedies fail to ease your symptoms, your doctor may recommend allergy testing to help determine your individual triggers and treatments to which you’re likely to respond. If symptoms of seasonal allergies persist and are bothersome, make an appointment with your doctor or an allergy specialist as soon as possible.
by Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN
“Seasonal Allergies: Nip them in the Bud.” Mayo Clinic. July 17, 2012.