Seasonal Allergies: Seven Tips to Consider this Summer

James Thompson, MD Health Pro
  • Well, summer seems to be trying its best to get here but spring and its cooler/wet weather refuses to exit in many places around the country. The changing weather patterns have brought forth more thunderstorms and tornados. Outdoor pollen and mold counts have been like a seesaw as sunny and warm days give way to cool and rainy ones. How has this impacted your seasonal allergies?

    Although the tree pollen season was shortened by extended winter weather earlier this year, the pollen surged in April once the temperatures climbed. Trees in the Midwest, which usually fill the air with pollen in March, exploded their pollen into the atmosphere in the later spring months this year. Grass pollen and mold spores jumped on the bandwagon in late April and May. Could you tell?

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    Seasonal allergies are difficult to avoid for the more than 50 million people in the U.S. who suffer from them. But they can be minimized by proper planning. In order to prevent early symptoms and reduce priming allergists often recommend starting certain allergy medications (antihistamines and prescribed nasal sprays) a week or two before the pollen season begins. Priming occurs when pollen, mold or other allergy triggers increase your sensitivity to subsequent exposures (to the same or other allergy triggers). When this happens, smaller amounts of pollen or mold may cause greater degrees of allergic inflammation (increased mucus and swelling) compared to the period before priming.

    I think two of the most common problems in managing seasonal allergies are getting a late start with medications and inconsistent use of them once they have been started. I spend several minutes explaining to my patients when to start allergy medications for seasonal allergic rhinitis, ocular allergy and asthma. I also emphasize the importance of taking particular medications regularly throughout the season even if weeks go by without having symptoms. Forgetting to take antihistamine for a day or few may cause a slide in control that you can never re-establish (for that season). But what if you are already experiencing defeat at treating your seasonal allergies? What can you do?

    Here are 7 tips to get you back on track:

    1)      Consult your allergist or allergy care provider to discuss medication adjustments to meet your current needs. Certain medications target runny nose, itching and sneezing (antihistamines) while others are more effective for nasal congestion (decongestants).

    2)      Nasal steroid sprays have become the single most effective medication for treating allergic rhinitis and may effectively reduce all the above symptoms. If you are currently not on a nasal steroid spray, ask your doctor to consider prescribing one.

    3)      Review your allergy triggers with your allergist. Allergy skin tests confirm the specific pollens and molds which drive the symptoms. Your allergist can give you an idea of how long to take medications by reviewing the identity of the allergy triggers.

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    4)      Follow pollen and mold counts but realize the information provided by various services reflects the status of the environment a day or two before the time you actually see it. The information helps to give you an idea of the overall level of allergen in the air and whether they represent trees, grass or mold.



    5)      Many people have seasonal allergies and indoor allergies. Environmental controls are vital to reducing the impact of indoor allergy triggers such as dust mites, mold spores and pets. The priming effect of seasonal allergy triggers can result in you being more sensitive to indoor allergy triggers.

    6)      Review proper nasal spray technique with your doctor or nurse. Poor nasal spray technique is a major reason many allergy sufferers fail to fully respond to treatment.

    7)      Review a few postings previously uploaded to this site over the years. You will find many more tips on surviving spring and summer allergy seasons.

    Allergy testing is crucial to defining and treating rhinitis (hay fever). Trying to treat seasonal allergies without knowing the triggers is like going on a long journey without a map. Consult a local allergist if you are struggling with nasal or sinus symptoms. Allergy shots may be in order if medications and avoidance fails to work for you. I hope these tips are helpful!

Published On: June 03, 2013