Iowa’s four seasons each bring a myriad of symptoms for seasonal allergy suffers. These symptoms can range from itchy eyes and throats, sinus headaches, a decreased sense of smell, fatigue, congested nasal passages, sneezing, wheezing or an increase in asthma, or hives.
The key to managing these symptoms is to reduce your exposure to the allergy trigger, if it is known. Often, you can attempt to correlate the onset of your symptoms with recent activities to try to come up with a possible trigger.
If your allergy is due to outdoor exposures to ragweed, which is prevalant in the fall, attempt to stay indoors, especially on windy days. If mowing the lawn or working with weeds or gardening chores, where a mask. When you come inside, remove your clothing and shower to rinse the allergens from your body and hair. If you are unable to immediately shower, make sure to at least wash your hands and face. Mold and Pollen counts can be routinely monitored to help you determine the risks of being outside on any given day at www.accuweather.com
If your allergies occur mostly in the winter, your allergens may be in your home. Remember to use high effeciency filters and routinely change your furnace filters. Keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier, use a portable HEPA filter in your bedroom, and clean floors often with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. Consider allergens that are not seasonal, such as animal dander – if your symptoms only occur in the winter and you have indoor pets.
Several types of nonprescription medications can help you ease the severity of your symptoms. As with any medication, please be sure to check with your primary care provider prior to taking these medicatons and read the labels carefully.
Nasal Irrigations are a quick and inexpensive way to relieve nasal congestion. One brand is called SinuMed. It is an irrigation to your sinuses that directly flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose and is available over- the-counter, without a prescription. Use water that is distilled or sterile with the included salt-packets.
Oral antihistamines can help to relieve your sneezing, itching, runny nose, waterly eyes, and nasal congestion. Examples include Claritin (loratadine) , Zyrtec (certirizine) , and Allegra (fexofenadine).
Decongestants such as Sudafed or Afrin may provide TEMPORARY relief from nasal stuffiness, but use of nasal decongestants are only encouraged for a few days in a row. Long-term use may actually worsen the symptoms and couse rebound congestion.
Nasal Sprays such as Flonase (fluticasone propionate), Nasocort (Triamcinolone Acetonide), or Cromolyn Sodium can ease allergy symptoms, but are most effective when you begin using them prior to or immediately at the onset of symptoms.
Combined medications such as those that contain an antihistamine with a decongestant are other options for short-term use. These inlcude Claritin-D, and Allegra-D.
When home remedies aren’t enough, schedule an appointment to see your primary care provider. Your PCP may recommend additional testing and or treatments to find out exactly what allergens trigger your symptoms and a process to better control your symptoms.
By Rebecca McCann, ARNP
Adair County Medical Clinic
Urgent Care and Emergency Room Provider
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