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Seasonal allergies affect millions each year. Pollens from grass, weeds, and trees are released into the air and inhaled into our system. These can cause mild to severe reactions by our immune system triggering a variety of symptoms including sneezing, runny/congested nose, itching, watery/red eyes.

For those with Asthma or COPD, flare-ups tend to go up during the spring allergy season. Sometimes you may be allergic to other pollutants such as molds and dust mites.

Treatment Options:

1) Antihistamines — most patients find a significant amount of relief from taking a daily antihistamine during their allergy season. Histamine is one of the main proteins released by our cells during an allergic reaction.

Antihistamines come in tablet form, nasal spray, and in eye drops. The tablet formulation is available over the counter (OTC) and the most popular ones are Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra— usually these are non-sedating when compared to the 1st generation antihistamines like Benadryl.

Nasal antihistamine preparations such as Astelin and Patanase as well as topical antihistamine eye drops such as Zaditor or Patanol are also available, but some of these may require a prescription.

2) Decongestants — this can help you breath easier if you are having swelling and congestion in your nasal passages.

These are not meant to be used long-term, especially if you are using the nasal spray decongestant, such as Afrin, as it can cause rebound congestion. Patients with high blood pressure may want to talk to their physician before initiating this.

The most popular types are pseudoephedrine, which is available behind the counter without prescription, or phenylephrine, which is available OTC.

Pseudoephedrine can be activating and thus its best to take it in the mornings.

3) Steroid nasal sprays — these help to decrease inflammation and symptoms of runny, itchy, or congested nose.

Nasonex is only available by prescription however both Nasacort and Flonase are currently available OTC.

4) Montelukast — more popularly known as Singulair, this medication can be helpful for people both with uncontrolled asthma and seasonal allergies or allergic rhinitis.

This may be the next step if the above medications don't control your symptoms.

5) Home remedies — nasal saline irrigation, a tablespoon of local honey, taking in steam, putting a humidifier may help relieve some symptoms of allergies.

It may be helpful to clean our air vents or change filters, wear a mask when going outside. Staying away from pollutants and cigarette smoke is always a good idea.

6) Allergy shots — this is usually reserved for patients with severe allergies that do not respond to the above therapies. They can provide relief for up to 3-5 years.

Sources: Harvard Health, CDC

How to deal with seasonal allergies


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