What to Know About Spring Allergies

AllergiesWhile springtime means warmer weather and beautiful blooms, it also means allergy season. With the trees and flowers popping up all around us, pollen becomes a major player when it comes to allergies.

Types of pollen

At the beginning of the season, tree pollen is most common, and as the season moves to mid-spring, grass pollen comes into play. Eventually, as we approach summer, we see weed-related allergies added to the mix.

Signs of pollen season

Common indications that pollen season has arrived include not only the trees and flowers in full bloom, but also the yellow-colored residue we see on our cars and other places. That is actually pollen itself and a clear sign that the stuffy nose you have may not be a cold-it could be allergies.

A cold vs. allergies

Many people have frequent colds and struggle distinguishing between a cold and allergies. However, fevers, chills and discolored nasal mucus are clear signs of a cold-not allergies.

Allergies are commonly distinguished by nasal itching, ear itching, throat itching, clear nasal discharge and sneezing. All of these are more likely to be seen with allergies than with the common cold, although the symptoms can overlap in some cases. Common sinus infections are also an indication of an individual with allergies.

Providing relief

There are over-the-counter medications available for allergies. Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec and Xyzal are common medications you can purchase at a drug store. These are all 24-hour, non-sedating medications known as second-generation antihistamines. These are safe to take daily for relieving chronic allergy symptoms. It is typically safe to switch between antihistamines if one isn’t working for you.

First-generation sedating antihistamines include Benadryl and Diphenhydramine, which work short-term for about six hours and aren’t recommended for chronic allergy symptoms.

If nasal congestion or drip continue to be a problem for you, consider adding a nasal steroid (brand names like Flonase, Fluticasone and Nasacort) along with your antihistamine. Some of these are available over-the-counter. One spray per nostril is recommended while your symptoms persist.

Other nasal sprays, such as Afrin, aren’t intended for allergy relief and are recommended to relieve cold symptoms only. Ask your allergist or primary care physician which is right for you.

Immunotherapy

Not all patients find relief from antihistamines or nasal sprays. If this is the case for you, you may want to explore immunotherapy. There are two kinds of allergy immunotherapy: allergy shots, or subcutaneous immunotherapy, and sublingual immunotherapy, such as tabs or drops taken orally. Allergy shots are known to be more effective, but if you aren’t fond of shots, the sublingual treatments are an alternative. The long-term goal of immunotherapy is to alter your immune system in order to relieve your allergy symptoms for good.  This result can’t be guaranteed and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Other culprits

Because we live in the Sunshine State, many pollen sources can bloom year-round along with other allergy culprits. Some wide-spread factors causing allergies all year include dust mites, mold and pet dander.

If you have any questions about your allergies, visit an allergist who can test you to find out exactly what you are allergic to and work with you to find relief.

Source: UCF College of Medicine

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