The allergy season is upon us – part two
Once the results of your blood test or a skin reaction test our back you now have a clearer picture of what is causing your runny nose and watery eyes. It is now time to explore the options available to you to control this allergic reaction to your environment.
There are nonmedical steps that you can take to minimize your exposure to the allergens in your home and at work. The first steps to take are to avoid being around anybody smoking and to stay inside when the pollution levels are high.
Perhaps the first place to start at home will be to have your heating and cooling system serviced at start of the pollen season. On the other hand, if you are handy around the house, you can change your heating/air-conditioning (HVAC) filters and clean all the vents. Check your exterior windows to make sure they not allow any dust to come through. After you have your house tidied up it is time the take steps to protect yourself when you are outside.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to wear a mask when you go outside. But, if wearing a mask still does not alleviate some of the symptoms then, if possible, simply avoid going outside when the pollen counts are high with the irritants that affect you the most.
Dr. Stacy Gray suggests using nasal saline irrigations after exposure to allergens because they help clean out your nose. If these nonmedical interventions are not helping it is time to seriously consider other options.
There are a number of medical interventions available, amongst which are the use of the antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays, decongestants, immunotherapy and non-steroidal nasal sprays.
Antihistamines work by counteracting the protein histamine that tissue cells release from deep inside the skin during a reaction to the allergen. There are a number of over-the-counter products (OTC) available. Benadryl has been used for a long time and is still effective however; there are newer products that work equally as well but without the side effects of drowsiness. Check with your doctor because there are many options out there when it comes to antihistamines.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays, as can be expected from the name, are manufactured steroids equivalent to the hormones produced in your adrenal glands. These work by reducing the inflammation caused by the irritants and at the same time cut down on the nasal itching, congestion, and runny nose. Since these are prescription medications, they will have to be ordered up by your doctor.
Decongestants reduce the swelling in the nasal passages. People with high blood pressure or heart problems should consider other options. They should not be used for more than several days because if used longer than a few days they can actually make the congestion worse. These are over-the-counter products but since they are also used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine they are actually kept behind the counter. In some states, you may have to sign for them.
Immunotherapy is a sequence of allergy shots that is intended to be used to build up an immunity to allergens over a period of 3 to 5 years. Your doctor may recommend this as a last resort especially if you are not responding to the regularly suggested medications.
Non-steroidal nasal sprays, containing cromolyn sodium, focus on the cause of the symptoms by preventing the allergens from even getting to the cells that release histamine. According to Dr. Gray, these types of products, although not quite as effective as the nasal steroid sprays, can be used long-term.
Dr. Gray says that since the allergy season is starting earlier each year you may want to start using a nasal spray a few weeks before the spring allergies begin.