Nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis as health care professionals call it, is a chronic illness that can vary greatly in intensity and frequency, but is never fun, with the accompanying nasal stuffiness, runny nose and sneezing. Not to mention the often linked itchy, burning eyes and overall feeling of malaise. But the good news is that nasal allergies CAN be controlled. So why not make this the year, you finally take back control of your life from your allergy condition?
Here are some suggestions to put you on the right track.
1. Make an appointment to see an allergist or to revisit yours if you’ve seen him/her before. Allergists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies. They can perform testing to help you identify your allergy triggers and they’ll know about the latest, most effective nasal allergy treatments.
2. Work with your medical team to develop an Allergy Action Plan. If you have asthma (many people with allergies do), then you’ve probably heard about Asthma Action Plans. These are documents that outline your common triggers, symptoms and what to do at varying stages of asthma attacks. There’s no reason in the world why you can’t have a similar written guideline to managing your allergies and allergy attacks.
3. Consider yourself an equal partner on your healthcare team. The doctor is not in charge; you are. It’s your body and you know it best. So be proactive in communicating with your team and take an active part in any decision-making. Learn all you can about all the aspects of allergies and how to manage them.
4. Become a “trigger detective.” Knowing what your triggers are, and then working to avoid them, is the first line of defense against allergies. Get good enough at it and you might even be able to reduce the amount of allergy medicine you need to take. The most common allergy triggers are dust mites, animal dander, tree/weed/grass pollen, mold and insect droppings. Get some tips here on how to avoid triggers
5. Stay on top of your allergy medicine prescriptions. If you take medicine all year round, this isn’t too hard. You probably get your refills in a timely manner. But when your nasal allergies are seasonal, you may forget to make sure you have medicine on hand until you need it, and that’s too late. The best way to control seasonal allergies is to start taking your allergy medicine about a week before the start of your allergy season. That gives the medicine to reach its full effectiveness before allergy triggers start to circulate. So, if for example, you have tree pollen allergies, you’ll probably want to start taking your medicine sometime in March at the latest. So be sure you have some unexpired medicine on hand or give your doctor a call for a new prescription. Stop those allergy symptoms before they begin!
6. Take an alternative approach to managing your allergies. Some alternative allergy treatments are showing promise. They’re gentler, less invasive and often cheaper. But they’re not always as effective as medicine. Still, it’s definitely worth exploring alternative therapies to see if any of them will work for you. If nothing else, they may reduce the amount of medicine you need to take. Learn more about alternative allergy treatments here.
7. Learn to tell the difference between symptoms of allergies, asthma and the common cold. Some of the symptoms overlap and it can all get quite confusing. Treatments are different, so you’ll feel better if you can tell the difference and address the symptoms the right way. Learn more here
8. Try out some “allergy-friendly” products. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation has developed a certification program to test certain products, including toys, to validate that they will not worsen allergy symptoms. Learn more about this program here
9. Learn about things that can make allergy symptoms worse. In #4 above, I talked about common allergy triggers. But there are other things, sometimes called irritants, that can’t really set off the immune system changes that allergy triggers do. However, these things can make your allergy symptoms worse. They include:
- Aerosol sprays
- Air pollution
- Cold air (outside or from air conditioning)
- High humidity
- Irritating fumes
- Tobacco smoke
- Wood smoke
10. If you’re a parent of a child with allergies, become an allergy advocate at your child’s school. It’s important to make sure that school is a safe environment for children with allergies and asthma, but teachers and other school staff don’t always understand the dangers. So, volunteer to teach them about allergy and asthma triggers and how to reduce them in the classroom, etc. Start by reading this article from the AAFA.
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.