Every spring, people take in the beauty of blooming trees and flowers. Unfortunately, the scene is not nearly as ideal for the millions of individuals suffering from seasonal allergies. This is a time for annoying symptoms including runny noses, congestion and sneezing. Numerous people are miserable due to allergic rhinitis and hay fever. There are steps you can take to avoid allergies this year including decreasing the triggers for your allergies. There are some good options below.
• During windy or dry days, remain inside. Wait until after a good rain to spend time outside because the rain removes a lot of pollen from the air.
• If you are performing chores outside, wear a pollen mask.
• Check with a local radio or television station, the internet or a local newspaper to determine both current and future pollen levels.
• Hire a professional or have a friend or family member take care of any gardening tasks triggering your allergies such as pulling weeds.
• Do not hang your laundry outdoors because your towels and sheets will attract pollen.
• When the local forecast predicts high pollen counts, use your allergy medication prior to seeing any symptoms.
• Take off the clothes you wore while outside, then take a shower to remove the pollen from your hair and skin.
• Avoid performing any activities outside during the early morning because the pollen count will be higher.
• Keep your windows and doors closed when pollen counts are the highest such as at night.
• Make certain the air inside your home remains clean.
Eliminating Allergens from Your Home
It is currently impossible to remove 100 percent of all allergens from your home. You can make a difference by using the following suggestions:
• Use high-efficiency filters for the air conditioning and heat in your home. You should also adhere to a consistent maintenance schedule.
• A dehumidifier will ensure the air in your home remains dry.
• Use the air conditioning in both your vehicle and home.
• Use a vacuum cleaner containing a HEPA filter for cleaning your floors.
• Use high-efficiency, portable HEPA filters in your bedroom.
• Ask your physician about the best over-the-counter remedies.
According to the FDA
Since you can’t always stay indoors when pollen counts are high, your health care provider may recommend prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve symptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates a number of medications that offer allergy relief.
There are different nonprescription medications available for allergies including the following:
Decongestants: Oral decongestants may offer you temporary relief. You should not use this type of medication for more than a few consecutive days or you may be risking making your congestion worse.
Oral Antihistamines: Antihistamines can offer relief for itching, sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose.
Nasal Sprays: Nasal sprays can help with the symptoms of your allergies with no serious side effects. Most physicians recommend using a nasal spray prior to the start of your symptoms.
Combination Medications: Certain medications combine a decongestant and an antihistamine.
Rinsing Nasal Passages: One of the most effective, fastest and least expensive options is using a saline solution to rinse your nasal passages. You can flush out allergens and mucus from your nose with a neti pot or squeeze bottle. The water should be sterile, distilled, boiled and cooled. The same type of water should be used for cleaning the device every time it is used.
Alternative Allergy Treatments
You can treat the symptoms of hay fever with alternative treatments. You should consult with your doctor prior to using any alternative treatment option. Although the safety and benefits remain unclear, you may find relief with extracts of spirulina or the shrub butterbur. Certain individuals believe the prevention of allergies and the accompanying symptoms is possible with acupuncture. There is a little evidence showing acupuncture is effective.
If you have not achieved prevention, your best option is to talk with your doctor. Numerous individuals find relief with over-the-counter medications. If nothing seems to be making a difference for your seasonal allergies, there are treatments available. Some physicians recommend treatments for asthma or seasonal allergies such as eliminating specific foods or prescription medications. Your doctor may also recommend blood or skin tests to determine which allergens are triggering your symptoms.
One option is called allergen immunotherapy or desensitization. This is when you are regularly injected with extremely small amounts of whatever is responsible for your allergies. As time passes, the reaction of your immune system is decreased to reduce your symptoms. Another option is an allergy skin test. Your skin will be exposed to potential allergens to determine if an allergic reaction appears. The combination of the tests and your medical history can help confirm what is causing your symptoms.
Allergen patch tests are diagnostic tests applied to the surface of the skin. Patch tests are used by healthcare providers to determine the specific cause of contact dermatitis, and are manufactured from natural substances or chemicals (such as nickel, rubber, and fragrance mixes) that are known to cause contact dermatitis.
The issue may be something you are touching, the foods you consume, bee venom or something in the air. The results of your tests may help your physician with the development of the best possible treatment plan. Allergy skin tests are frequently used for the diagnosis of allergic conditions including:
• Penicillin allergy
• Hay fever
• Bee venom allergy
• Food allergies
• Allergic asthma
• Latex allergy
Allergy skin tests are usually dependable for diagnosing allergies resulting from airborne substances including dust mites, pet dander and pollen. Sometimes, food allergies can be diagnosed as well. In some cases, additional procedures or tests are necessary due to the complexities of food allergies. Prior to offering a recommendation for a skin test, your physician will ask about your medical history, symptoms and the treatments you have used.
Your doctor may try to detect the cause of your symptoms through a physical exam. Prior to making an appointment for a skin prick test, you need to provide your physician with a complete list of all over-the-counter medications you are taking. Certain medications can suppress your allergic reactions, others may increase your risk of an allergic reaction while taking your test, and a few can prevent your test from showing an accurate result.
To ensure the medications are out of your system, your physician may ask you to discontinue using them for 10 days before your test. You will most likely have your skin prick test at your doctor’s office. The test is usually administered by the nurse, while the results are interpreted by your doctor. You should allow 20 to 40 minutes for your test. Depending on the test, you may receive your results immediately or you may have to wait a few days.
Patch testing is to determine if your allergic skin irritation is caused by a specific substance. Delayed allergic reactions can be detected. This may require a few days to develop. As opposed to a needle, patch tests apply allergens to patches placed on your skin. During your test, you may be exposed to 20 or 30 substances potentially responsible for your allergies including medications, preservatives, metals, latex, fragrances, hair dyes and resins. The patch remains on your arm for 48 hours.
Histamine usually results in a skin response. If you do not have a reaction, an allergy may not be shown by your test even if there is one. Saline and glycerin do not usually cause a reaction. A reaction may indicate sensitive skin. Your tests must be interpreted correctly to eliminate a false diagnosis. If there is an itchy, red, raised bump, your testing has revealed an allergy. The size of your bump is then measured by the nurse.
Puncture or Scratch Test
A puncture or scratch test is often referred to as a skin prick test. The test instantly checks for approximately 40 different substances simultaneously. The test is generally performed to look for allergies to mold, dust mites, pollen, foods and pet dander. The test is usually performed on the forearm for adults. The upper back is generally used for testing children. This test is not painful.
Skin Injection Test
You may receive a test using a needle for the injection of tiny amounts of allergen extracts. The injection is given on your arm. An allergic reaction should appear within 15 minutes. The test may be recommended to check for allergies to penicillin or insect bites.
If you normally suffer from allergies each spring, you can take steps to prevent them this spring. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation and discuss your allergy issues one-on-one with your physician.