With the weather starting to warm up and flu season hopefully almost gone, seasonal allergies will be on the rise. Seasonal allergies, sometimes called allergic rhinitis or hay fever affects approximately 20% of people of all ages. The risk of developing allergic rhinitis is much higher in people that have asthma or eczema and in people that have a family history of asthma or allergic rhinitis.
Allergic rhinitis can start at any age, but most people develop symptoms in childhood or early adulthood. Symptoms seem to be more severe in childhood and in people in their 30s and 40s and varies throughout life.
Allergic rhinitis is caused by a nasal reaction to small airborne particles called allergens that cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms can affect the nose and cause stuffiness, runny nose and sneezing. It can affect the eyes and cause them to water, itch or turn red. It can also cause a sore, scratchy or itchy throat and ears. It can affect the lungs and make asthma symptoms worse.
Some people can have allergy symptoms all year round. This is called perennial allergic rhinitis and are normally caused by dust mites, cockroaches, animal dander, and mold and fungus. Seasonal allergies are mostly caused by pollens from trees, grasses and weeds, as well as spores from fungus and molds.
Treatment of allergic rhinitis consist of reducing the exposure to the allergen and medication. Many of the medications recommended for allergies are available over the counter.
ANTIHISTIMINES such as Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra help stop itching, sneezing and the runny nose.
DECONGESTANTS such as Sudafed can reduce a stuffy nose but need to be used with caution as they can increase blood pressure and heart rate and cause jitteriness.
STEROID NOSE SPRAYS such as Flonase can decrease the congestion and post nasal drainage, but need to be used with caution in people that have glaucoma.
NASAL RINSES such as a netti pot can get rid of the pollen in the nose
ALLERGY SHOTS prescribed by your allergist contain tiny amounts of the allergen that you are allergic to and are made specifically for the patient. The shots are given on a regular basis to hopefully change the immune response over time.
Reducing exposure to the things you are allergic to can help prevent symptoms. Examples are if you sneeze around cats keep them outdoors, not in the house. Keep your house clean and dust at a minimum. Sometimes carpets need to be removed to help with this. Also if you are allergic to pollen, stay inside during the times when they are at the highest levels, usually at dusk and dawn and keep your windows closed in the house and in the car and run your air conditioner. Also it is important to shower before you go to bed to remove any pollen off your skin and hair.
Most of these recommendations can be done on your own, but if you continue to have symptoms contact your family physician for further help.