Allergic Rhinitis: Survival Tips to Help You Get Through the Fall Allergy Season

James Thompson, MD Health Pro
  • Ragweed season is well underway in most of the northern states of America. The day after Labor Day was one of my busiest work days of the year.  The nice weather over the holiday weekend allowed many families to spend hours engaging in outdoor activities, for three consecutive days.  But on September 2nd, my phones were ringing off the hook from people desperately seeking help to stop their itchy and watery eyes and runny and stuffy nose. Was there any fall-out from your Labor Day weekend?


    If you missed your chance to prepare for the ragweed season by following tips provided by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (covered in my previous post), don't worry, here are steps you can take right away:

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    Survival Tips for Seasonal Allergies

    Take a look at my previous post regarding ragweed and how to prepare for this seasonal allergy. Some of the suggestions may be helpful despite the late start.


    Here are three more tips that may be helpful:

    1) If you are taking an antihistamine pill (Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec, Clarinex for example), don't skip days or prematurely stop taking it because of a good day or two. Antihistamines are blockers of histamine, which is a substance released from certain cells in your body, when you inhale or contact an allergy trigger (such as ragweed pollen or mold spore). If a bad day comes along (higher pollen count on those days) you won't have your blockers on board if you have missed doses. The antihistamine may not work as well thereafter. Ragweed season is usually over by October for most of the northern states.


        2) Try to take your daily antihistamine more than an hour before you leave your home in order to allow it to be absorbed from your stomach, ahead of initial outdoor pollen and mold exposure of the day.


        3) If you are on a daily intranasal steroid (INS) re-evaluate your nasal spray technique. INS has become cornerstone in managing persistent nasal allergy (some examples include Flonase, Nasonex, Rhinocort Aqua, Veramyst and Nasacort AQ). Common reasons for only getting a partial response to INS include missing daily doses, poor timing of nasal spray use and poor technique.

        • I instruct my patients to use their INS immediately after their daily shower or bath in order to take advantage of the nose being cleared out and nasal passages more open to receive the spray. Timing the use of INS this way avoids spraying medication into the nostrils at a time when they are filled with inhaled allergens, pollutants and mucus.
        • I also tell my patients to tilt their head forward as they carefully aim the tip of the nasal spray up the nostril slightly away from the mid wall (nasal septum- see pic). There is a catchy phrase I share with patients: "Look down at your toes and squirt up your nose." If the head is tilted back when you spray the INS the medication will roll down your throat. You are almost drinking your nasal spray in this case. Proper nasal spray technique is essential and should be reviewed by your doctor or nurse on follow-up visits. Aim slightly away from the midwall (septum) 

        Remember, if you have been miserable despite attempts to treat your allergy problems you should see an allergy specialist.  Once your trigger factors have been identified a course of treatment will be established focusing on avoidance of triggers (environmental controls), medications and if appropriate, allergy shots.


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        Upgrade your quality of life by learning everything you can about your allergy problems and taking action under the guidance of your doctor. Although there is no cure for allergic rhinitis, with proper planning and follow through symptoms can be minimized.


        Are there other survival tips you think should be added to the list?


        What measures, other than taking medication, have been most helpful in getting you through a bad outdoor allergy season?

      Published On: September 08, 2008