Seasonal Allergies

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever or seasonal allergies) is most often caused by pollens from trees, grass or weeds. It usually subsides with the onset of cold weather. Perennial allergic rhinitis, caused by indoor allergens such as dust, mold spores and animal dander, occurs year round. Anyone can develop allergies at any time.

What causes hay fever?

In allergy sufferers, inhaling pollen and other allergens causes the immune system to mistakenly generate a reaction against them. During this reaction, the release of histamine and other substances cause the symptoms of allergic rhinitis as well as inflammation in the nasal lining which makes the nose very sensitive to irritants (ex: smoke, strong odors) or to changes in the temperature and humidity of the air.

Symptoms

Itchy, runny, sneezy or stuffy nose, red or itchy eyes, scratchy throat, postnasal drip, cough.

Treatment

  • Avoidance of the allergen is the best treatment whenever possible.
  • Limit time outdoors when pollen counts are highest. (early morning and when the pollen count or humidity is reported high, and on windy days when dust and pollen are blown)
  • Keep doors and windows closed to keep pollen out of the house and car.
  • Control dust.
  • Stay away from furry pets.
  • Keep humidity in the house moderate.

Medications

Antihistamines

Inhibit the actions of histamine. They work best if taken before exposure to allergens, and then take regularly to keep symptoms under control.

  • Over the counter antihistamines (ex: Benadryl) may cause drowsiness and dry mouth. Be careful not to drive until you know how an antihistamine affects you. The drowsy side effect may decrease after a few days of taking the medicine.
  • Once a day, non-drowsy Claritin (or Alavert, Loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine) are now available without a prescription. (other non-drowsy antihistamines are also available by prescription)

Nasal Decongestants

 Decrease the swelling of the nasal tissue and the resulting feeling of stuffiness.

  • Oral decongestants (ex: Sudafed or pseudoephedrine) may cause sleeplessness and jitteriness.
  • Topical decongestant sprays (ex: Afrin) can bring good short term relief but they cause a “rebound” congestion (stuffy all the time) if used for more than 2-3 days.

Topical Anti-inflammatories

The anti-inflammatory action of these medicines can prevent nasal congestion. Best started before symptoms and used regularly to maintain effectiveness.

  • NasalCrom nose spray is available over the counter.
  • Nasal corticosteroids (ex: Flonase, Nasacort) are prescription nasal sprays. Potential side effect of nasal irritation can be minimized by using a saline nasal spray first.

Eye Drops

Antihistamine/decongestant eye drops (ex: Naphcon-A, Opcon-A) give quick relief of allergic symptoms of red, itchy, watery eyes but can lead to rebound or worsening symptoms when the drops are stopped. Now available without a prescription is the antihistamine eye drop Zaditor which works as quickly but without the problem of rebound.

If allergies are interfering with your life, you have questions, or you have shortness of breath, wheezing or a cough, Call Health Services for an appointment at 315-443-9005.