Seasonal Allergies: Gesundheit!
Spring is in the air, along with those pesky allergens- substances that can cause sneezing fits, runny noses, and itchy eyes. While there are many irritants that can trigger allergic reactions, seasonal allergies (allergic rhinitis, hay fever) are generally caused by wind-borne pollen. Pollen comes from trees, weeds, grasses, and mold. Once inhaled, the pollen starts a chain reaction through your immune system, activating the release of histamine, resulting in:
· Inflammation: nasal congestion, sinus pressure, watering eyes, and sore throat
· Increased mucus production: runny nose, post-nasal drainage (down the back of your throat), and cough
· Itching: eyes, ears, roof of mouth, and throat
The seasonal release of pollen and the presence of hay fever symptoms tend to occur at the same time of year. Identifying your “bad seasons” is the first step to preventing allergy symptoms and possible illness (sinusitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, and ear infections). Should you want to prevent the effects of pollen, the second step is to consider allergy medications.
There are several types of over-the-counter medications that help block the body’s reaction to allergens (and the release of histamine). The most widely used class of medications for allergies are anti-histamines. Once the anti-histamine medication is in your blood stream, you will be less likely to release histamines when exposed to pollen, which leads to fewer symptoms.
The key to taking allergy medication is to take it every day - before your symptoms begin, and to continue until the end of the allergy season - even if you are not having any symptoms. (Chances are you are not having allergy symptoms because you are taking the medication daily.)
When considering allergy medication, speak with your or your child’s provider about the best option(s) for you or your child. You can also consult with your local pharmacist. Should you be recommended an over-the-counter allergy medication, consider the following:
Over-The-Counter Allergy Medications (generic name, brand name)
Pills: Anti-histamine examples include (dosing):
· Brompheniramine (every 4 hours)
· Cetirizine (Zyrtec; daily)
· Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, Coricidin HBP; every 4-6 hours)
· Clemastine (Tavist; every 12 hours)
· Diphenhydramine (Benadryl; every 4-6 hours; causes sedation)
· Doxylamine (Unisom; every 4-6 hours; causes sedation)
· Fexofenadine (Allegra; daily)
· Levocetirizine (Xyzol; daily)
· Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert; daily)
Eye Drops: Anti-histamine examples include:
· Ketotifen ophthalmic (Zaditor, Alaway)
· Pheniramine (anti-histamine)/Naphazoline (decongestant) (Naphcon A, Visine-A, Opcon-A)
Over-The-Counter Steroid Nose Sprays
Another allergy option is steroid nasal sprays. The steroid medication reduces sinus swelling and decreases mucus production. It is absorbed locally in the sinus tissue resulting in decreased runny nose, nasal congestion, and postnasal drainage.
Examples of the over-the-counter steroid nose sprays include:
· Budesonide (Rhinocort Allergy)
· Fluticasone (Clarispray, Flonase)
· Mometasone (Nasonex)
· Triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24HR)
In the event you are not obtaining relief with an over-the-counter allergy medication, speak with your provider about prescription medications that may be helpful.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology website contains a map of current pollen counts in the U.S.: http://www.aaaai.org/global/nab-pollen-counts?ipb=1