“It’s not the most romantic idea in the world, but it is an effective way to remember when to start taking your spring allergy medications,” says allergist Kathleen May, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACCAI). “And although spring allergies aren’t necessarily top of mind in February, climate change means that temperatures are rising, and allergy symptoms occur earlier in the year. In southern regions of the United States, allergies often start at the end of January.”
Following are six additional suggestions from ACAAI to bring spring allergy and asthma symptoms under control:
- Do you know your allergy triggers? – Although allergy symptoms can look a lot alike – sneezing, sniffling, coughing, and red, itchy eyes – not everyone is allergic to the same things. The bottom line is that seasonal allergies can look different for different people. A visit to the allergist can help you identify which things are making you sneeze and cough. Depending on where you live, spring allergies can start as early as January. If over-the-counter medicines aren’t helping, talk to your allergist. They can prescribe effective medications for symptom control.
- What not to test for when testing for nasal allergies – Sometimes, patients who are being tested for allergic rhinitis (hay fever) get tested for food allergies. ACAAI recommends that food allergy testing should not be performed in the routine evaluation of allergic rhinitis because food allergies do not cause nasal symptoms. Occasionally patients have food-pollen cross reactivity. So, what should you be tested for? Hay fever testing should include sensitivity to pets, dust mites, trees, grasses, weeds, and mold as they are the most likely triggers for nasal allergies.
- Intranasal corticosteroids are effective – Intranasal corticosteroids (fluticasone, mometasone, budesonide, triamcinolone) are the most effective treatment if you suffer from persistent allergy symptoms, especially if they are interfering with your quality of life. They are also safe, and may even help control the symptoms that accompany eye allergies.
- Some medications have side effects – If you’ve used pseudoephedrine for your allergies in the past and found it to be effective, you may know it has side effects. Pseudoephedrine is effective at clearing up congestion, particularly stuffy noses, but is the main ingredient is methamphetamine, or “meth.” Pseudoephedrine has side effects including insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, and heart palpitations, and should not be taken if you are pregnant. It is only available by prescription or by specially requesting it from a pharmacist, depending on what state you are in.
- Steer clear of first-generation antihistamines – If you plan to take an oral medication to treat your hay fever, think twice before using first generation antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (ChlorTrimeton). They can cause drowsiness and symptoms like dry mouth, dry eyes, and constipation. Look for non-sedating treatments like cetirizine, levocetirizine, fexofenadine, loratadine or desloratadine instead.
- Consider an old (effective) standby – One of the oldest — and still best — methods to target your allergens is immunotherapy. Allergists are trained to identify your allergies and provide a personal treatment plan. Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or tablets is designed to target your exact triggers. It can greatly reduce the severity of your symptoms and can also prevent the development of asthma in some children with seasonal allergies. Talk to your allergist about which form of immunotherapy is right for you.
If you are suffering with nasal allergy symptoms and your regular treatments aren’t working, it’s time to see a board-certified allergist. They are specially trained to help you take control of your allergies and asthma, so you can live the life you want. Find an allergist in your area with the ACAAI allergist locator.
The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy, and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org. Join us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.