I was leaving my yoga class when I heard a sneeze and a cough. I turned towards the sound and saw the young woman beside me rubbing her eyes. Yes, spring is here and the pollen is flying: its allergy time.
Pollen, a fine powder produced by certain plants, can be an allergen, a substance that causes the immune system to overreact in some people. This can lead to nasal congestion, sneezing, and an itchy throat. Further complications of allergy can include sinus problems, breathing difficulty, eye irritation and skin inflammation.
At RiverBend, we often perform skin tests to determine the cause of allergy symptoms. For those with severe allergies, allergy shots (immunotherapy) are available. These are given weekly or monthly by an allergy doctor. The shots may decrease symptoms but can take many months to work.
Other types of allergy treatments include:
• Antihistamines. These often help with the itchy, runny nose and sneezing. Some of the older antihistamines, such as Benadryl, make people feel sleepy, but many of the newer medicines of this type, such as Claritin and Zyrtec, have fewer side effects.
• Steroid nose sprays. These lead to a decreased inflammatory response. They require a doctor’s prescription. They require a week or so to kick in and require daily use, at least during allergy season.
• Decongestants. These reduce stuffy nose symptoms but should not be taken by a person with high blood pressure. Nasal spray decongestants should not be taken more than 3 days in a row.
• Saline nose rinses. These non-medication flushes are safe and available over the counter with various delivery systems.
You can prevent some allergy symptoms by starting treatment a few weeks before your usual allergy season starts.
Trying to avoid allergens can also be helpful:
• Use air conditioning to reduce pollen exposure.
• Keep windows of cars and homes closed and stay indoors during the peak allergy season.
• Bathe prior to bed to rinse pollen off your hair and skin.
• If you need to work outside, wear a dust mask.
It’s spring, so I would like to encourage you to stop and smell the flowers. Use my advice, however, to enjoy this spring with fewer sniffles. This way, thee next time you are in my yoga class, you will be bright, cheerful and free from the symptoms of allergies.