Hay Fever Season Is Here – Get Relief
You made it through the winter unscathed. You survived the cold. You survived the ice. You even survived that week when it seemed like everyone around you had the flu (thank you, flu shot!)
Now that springtime is upon us, we look forward to trees blooming and flowers budding. However, this is also the time of year when seasonal allergies flare up.
The tell-tale drip
It probably started with a little nasal drip. Maybe a sneeze. Then your eyes got red and itchy. And then you knew … pollen was back with a vengeance. Tree pollen levels were already reaching high levels in the South in mid-March while the Northeast and Midwest got a few weeks’ reprieve, thanks to cool weather. With ample moisture in the spring though, regardless of where you live, hay fever season is now in full swing.1 And if your spring allergy symptoms feel worse than they have in past years, you’re not alone. As carbon dioxide levels have increased, pollen-produced plants have thrived. Chalk up another win for climate change.2
What happens when you have allergies
You’re sitting at your desk surrounded by spent tissues while your cubical mate is happily breathing away with nary a sniffle. What gives? Lucky you, you have a hyper-sensitive immune system. Your immune system recognizes pollen as a foreign agent and attacks by releasing histamine into your blood stream. Histamines set off an immune or inflammatory response. How relentless the attack depends on your body. You could be one of the lucky ones with just a little eye redness – or you could be a snorting, snotting, sneezing, wheezing, eye-scratching mess.2
You’ve never had hay fever before? Don’t relax just yet – you can develop allergies as an adult, particularly if you move to a different location with new allergens. The reverse is true as well. Just because you have suffered from allergies as a kid, doesn’t mean they can’t improve or disappear as you age.2 In fact, research shows the more we are exposed to a variety of allergens, particularly as children, the better our chances to fight them off. So, skip the antibacterial soaps, let the kids play in the mud, get them a pet, and of course, make sure they get their recommended immunizations.3,4
Reducing your exposure
Just because you are one of the unlucky 50 million Americans2 who suffer from season allergies doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself inside until next winter. Keep windows closed and give your home a thorough spring cleaning to reduce exposure:5,6,7,8
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter
- Change air filters in heating and cooling units
- Clean duct work
- Wipe down walls
- Move furniture to clean hard-to-reach places where dust gathers
- Get rid of dust-collecting clutter
- Wash curtains, throws and bedding
- Wash bed pillows and stuffed animals in hot water to eliminate dust mites (don’t forget your pets’ beds!)
- Scrub visible mold from basements, bathrooms and kitchen including under the sink
- Clean sconces, chandeliers and other lights
- Thoroughly vacuum your mattress
- Hire a service to clean your upholstery
- Wear a mask while cleaning or hire a cleaning service
There are a variety of pills, shots and nasal sprays to help, from over-the-counter (OTC) remedies to prescription medications. So how do you find the one that is right for you?
If spring allergies are leading to symptoms that include sinus pressure or infections, wheezing or shortness of breath, a trip to your doctor is in order. If you are unsure what exactly is setting off your allergic reactions, your doctor may send you to a specialist to help identify the culprit.9,10
For the bulk of allergy sufferers, however, a consultation with your pharmacist may be enough to find relief. OTC remedies will depend on your symptoms and include:
- Pills: Non-prescription antihistamines are the first line of defense for most seasonal allergy sufferers.
- Nasal Sprays: If a stuffy nose is your most bothersome symptom, a corticosteroid spray can help reduce inflammation and congestion.
- Eye drops: To reduce redness and itching, eye drops that contain antihistamines can provide relief.
- Sinus rinses: Used alone or in conjunction with other remedies, nasal rinses, including saline nasal sprays or neti pots, can wash away pollen and dust. 9,10 When using a nasal irrigation system such as a neti pot, be sure to use as directed and only with sterile, distilled or boiled water that has been cooled, not tap water.
As with any medication, be sure to use as directed and talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions.
We’re here to help
If you are suffering from seasonal allergies and not sure of the best remedy to alleviate your symptoms, your local Hawthorne pharmacist is always here to help!
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
- NBC News: “What an immunologist wants you to know about spring allergies” https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-immunologist-wants-you-know-about-spring-allergies-ncna869011 Last accessed: April 3, 2019
- New York Times: “Your Environment Is Cleaner. Your Immune System Has Never Been So Unprepared.” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/health/immune-system-allergies.html Last accessed: April 3, 2019
- New York Times: “More Pets, Fewer Allergies” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/well/family/dogs-cats-pets-kids-children-allergies-asthma.html Last accessed: April 3, 2019
- Baylor College of Medicine: Tips help relieve seasonal allergies and sinus infections https://blogs.bcm.edu/2019/01/29/tips-help-relieve-seasonal-allergies-and-sinus-infections/ Last accessed: April 3, 2019
- Good Housekeeping: “Skipping Spring Cleaning Can Make Allergies and Asthma Much Worse, According to Doctors” https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/wellness/a26898560/how-to-reduce-allergens-cleaning/ Last accessed: April 3, 2019
- US News: “A Good Spring Clean Can Help Tame Seasonal Allergies” https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-03-25/a-good-spring-clean-can-help-tame-seasonal-allergies Last accessed: April 3, 2019
- Living Allergic: “Finding Pollen Allergy Relief: What Pill, Spray or Shot is Right?” https://www.allergicliving.com/2019/04/02/finding-pollen-allergy-relief-what-pill-spray-or-shot-is-right/ Last accessed: April 3, 2019