Lisa Johnican is a respiratory therapist at Page Hospital.
Question: What is the best way to manage my spring allergies?
Answer: For millions of Americans, spring means sneezing and sniffling. It also means watery eyes, scratchy throat, and—at worst—asthma attacks. The pollen and mold spores that come with spring make this season an unhappy one for those with allergies.
Since a single plant can produce a million grains of pollen in a day, it’s nearly impossible to avoid pollen. But these steps from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology can help:
- Keep windows, especially bedroom windows, closed to prevent allergens from drifting indoors.
- Keep the air conditioner on. Be sure to clean or replace filters often.
- Vacuum rugs and carpets regularly and dust frequently, using a damp cloth, to remove pollen and mold.
- Shampoo pets regularly to remove allergens from their coats. And keep them out of the bedroom.
- Wash your hair before going to bed to get the pollen out.
- Wear glasses rather than contact lenses. Contacts can trap pollen against your eyes.
Choosing the right allergy medication is the first step in stopping the sniffles. There are hundreds of allergy-relief products to choose from. To choose wisely, you need to understand what you are allergic to, how each medication works and which symptoms they treat.
For instance, if you are allergic to pollen or mold, these allergens irritate your nasal passages. They become swollen and inflamed, causing sneezing, a runny nose, headache and congestion. If your eyes are irritated, they may water and itch.
So which medicine is right for you?
- Antihistamines: An allergen causes your body to release a chemical called histamine. This chemical inflames the tissues in your nose and changes the mucus you produce. Antihistamine medications prevent histamine from affecting the nasal tissues.
- Decongestants. As the nose tissues produce more fluid and mucus, you may feel congestion and pressure in your nose and head. You may even have trouble breathing through your nose. Decongestants help reduce the fluids. This relieves pressure and allows more air to flow through your nose.
- Pain reliever. Each of these meds may also include a pain reliever for headaches and congestion.
These types of medicines come in many forms: pills, sprays, eye drops and syrups. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you pick the right medications. Be sure to ask if it will interact with any other medications you are taking, such as blood pressure meds.
Both asthma and allergies can be sensitive to environmental “triggers.” Many of these can be controlled. The American Lung Association offers these allergy and asthma control tips. If you or family members suffer from asthma or allergies, now’s a good time to clean your home.
Reviewed March 2010