No 'Ah-Choo' For You

Here’s a strategy for beating springtime allergy symptoms.
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Although most of us can’t wait to enjoy the great outdoors, allergy sufferers know warmer weather is not all blue skies and sunshine—it can have a darker side.

If you are among the 50 million seasonal allergy sufferers in the U.S., spring is a great time to learn how to identify, treat and manage allergies to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle while reducing sneezing, congestion and watery eyes.

“The spring allergy season usually begins in mid-March, which is when tree pollen begins to rise,” says Sharon Yee, M.D., allergist and immunologist at Westwood-based Allergy and Asthma Consultants of Rockland and Bergen.

Tree pollen counts are typically at their peak in April, when air temperatures are higher. Then the influx of grass pollen usually affects allergy sufferers in May and June.

With allergies, it’s best to think prevention, especially when it comes to exposure to pollen. Simple steps like keeping windows shut and using air conditioning, in your car and house, can reduce symptoms. And stay indoors in the early morning when pollen counts are high. For further relief, Dr. Yee recommends an over-the-counter antihistamine (Claritin or Zyrtec, for example), preferably one that lasts 24 hours— most are non-drowsy. Decongestants may also help, and nasal sprays like Flonase or Nasonex are another option.

For those who still have symptoms after taking an antihistamine, the next line of treatment is allergy shots, which can be an effective and safe method of relief.

During allergy immunotherapy, a patient is exposed to allergens through injections. A blood test and/or skin test can determine which allergens are causing the symptoms. The shots are given twice a week at first, with very small doses of the allergen, to prompt the immune system to produce antibodies. Though success is not 100 percent guaranteed, medical professionals say patients can develop immunity within a couple of years.

Hate needles? There is another new option for allergy sufferers.

“Sublingual immunotherapy is a new treatment, taking a daily allergy tablet that dissolves underneath the tongue,” says Dr. Yee. This method usually begins three months before allergy season and continues three months after it ends.

“I have prescribed these for tree pollen, grass pollen and weed pollen,” she says, “and have seen positive results.”

Facts About Allergies

  • Nasal allergies are estimated to affect roughly 50 million Americans.
  • In 2012, more than 13.4 million visits to physician offices, hospital outpatient departments and emergency departments were due to allergic rhinitis.
  • Allergic diseases, including asthma, are the fifth most prevalent chronic diseases in people of all ages, and the third most common in children.

Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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