No matter the season, you can effectively manage your allergy symptoms.
Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is a very common condition affecting an estimated 40 to 60 million Americans. While some triggers like dust mites and pet hair persist throughout the year, spring and fall allergies worsen during specific pollen seasons. In many places in the United States, spring allergies kick in as early as February and linger until the beginning of the summer. Fall allergies tend to start in August and can continue through November.
In the spring, tree and grass pollen are the most common culprits. Fall allergies are typically triggered by mold and ragweed, though plants like sagebrush, cocklebur, and tumbleweed can cause problems as well. Here are a few ways to stay comfortable in any season.
Know Your Triggers
It's hard to manage your symptoms if you're not entirely sure what's causing them. If you haven't had an allergy test recently, see an allergist. You'll most likely be given a skin prick test, which is designed to measure how you react to a variety of common allergens. You can also talk to your Rite Aid Pharmacist about your symptoms and they can direct you to further information and resources.
When your allergy triggers are in bloom, take steps to keep pollen off your body and out of your home. Start by keeping an eye on the pollen count—some weather forecasts contain this information, or you can use a website like Pollen.com.
If you can't stay indoors on high pollen days, then at least try to limit your time outdoors during peak hours. In the spring, pollen counts tend to be higher in the evening, so it's best to venture out earlier. Fall is the opposite, with higher pollen levels in the morning.
When it's warm out, you'll want to keep your windows closed and run the air conditioning. Consider wearing a face mask (ideally one rated N95) while mowing the lawn, gardening, and raking leaves.
Keep It Clean
When you come home, drop your shoes at the door to avoid tracking pollen into the house. You may also want to change your clothes and hop in the shower. A neti pot or saline nasal wash kit is an easy, drug-free option that can help flush out allergens from your nasal passages. If your eyes are itchy, avoid rubbing them at all costs! To remove irritants, try gently rinsing closed eyelids with warm water.
Choose Medications Carefully
There are many prescription and over-the-counter options for treating seasonal allergies, but some choices are better than others. Allergy medications are often multi-symptom, which may mean they contain more than one active ingredient. While these options can be convenient, you should always talk to your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist before taking them, and when possible, look for medications that treat individual allergy symptoms.
It's also a good idea to consider what form of medication works best for you. Eyedrops like Zaditor help to combat itchy eyes, while a nasal spray like Flonase is helpful in treating a nasal congestion, an itchy or runny nose, and itchy or watery eyes. A pill like Allegra contains an antihistamine that will typically help soothe most allergy symptoms, including a runny nose, sneezing, itching of the nose or throat and itchy, watery eyes.
Seasonal allergies can be tough for anyone, but finding relief can be a bit trickier if you also have diabetes. Decongestants and nasal steroids might raise your blood sugar, and some antihistamines can have side effects similar to symptoms of low blood sugar, including drowsiness and loss of coordination. If you choose to take allergy medication, you may need to check your blood sugar more often. When in doubt, ask your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist for guidance about which drugs are safest and how often you should monitor your blood sugar levels.
Consider Alternative Care
If your seasonal allergy symptoms are severe, immunotherapy may offer the best solution. Most of the time this means getting a series of consistent shots, but some sublingual (under the tongue) options are now available as well. The goal is to slowly expose you to small amounts of the allergen that bothers you so that your body eventually gets used to it, lessening your reaction over time.
Immunotherapy typically works well, but you'll have to be patient—it often takes up to a year to notice the results, and it's not right for everyone. Take to your doctor about whether this might be the right treatment for you.
In the meantime, taking the right preventative measures and choosing your medications wisely can help you combat your allergies, no matter when they strike.
By Barbara Brody
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Allergic Rhinitis
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Common Seasonal Allergy Triggers
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Four Things You Might Not Know About Fall Allergies
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Allergy Treatment
American Association of Diabetes Educators, Seasonal Allergies and Diabetes
Michigan State University Extension, Treatments to Relieve Allergy Symptoms May Impact Blood Glucose
Allegra, Allegra 12HR
Flonase, Flonase Drug Facts
Zaditor, About Zaditor Eye Drops