Summertime Allergies

Woman sneezing outsideGuest Blog By Elizabeth Baker, M.D., New West Physicians Park Ridge Family Medicine

It’s summertime! The kids are out of school, BBQs are fired up, vacation plans are made, and allergies are in full swing. For many, allergies can really put a damper on their enjoyment of the season.

Common allergies

  • Hay Fever or Allergic Rhinitis—runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, scratchy throat, itchy ears, watery or itchy eyes, postnasal drip, cough, and fatigue
  • Allergy Eyes or Allergic conjunctivitis —itchy, red, watery eyes and swollen eyelids
  • Allergic dermatitis—itchy, hive-type reaction to allergens such as grass, animals, etc.
  • Allergic bronchitis—chronic cough, chest tightness and wheezing associated with an allergy exposure

About 1 in 5 Americans experience hay fever. Symptoms can range from mild and annoying to severe enough that afflicted people miss work and school. They are more prone to sinus infections and lung problems. Thankfully, there are many treatments that can help:

How to Find Relief

Decreasing exposure can make a big difference. Closing windows at home and work, wearing a mask when doing yard work can be very effective in avoiding exposure. People may carry many pollen particles and allergens on their skin and clothing, and pets get lots of pollen stuck in their fur if they are outdoors. Showering before getting into bed (and having your pets sleep outside of the bedroom or bathing them frequently) can help.

  • Certain herbal treatments can have benefits. Small studies show that using Butterbur, Fermented Red Ginseng, or Benifuuki green tea can help with allergy symptoms when taken regularly.
  • Saline nasal irrigation helps to alleviate symptoms and rinses allergens from the nasal passages.
  • Nasal allergy sprays such as Flonase, Nasacort, Na-Sonex or their generic equivalent—are safe for adults and kids to use every day. These allergy sprays are the most effective choice for treating nasal issues (runny nose, congestion, sore throat). Don’t confuse these with decongestant nasal sprays such as Afrin or Neo-Synephrine, which should never be used for more than a few days at a time.
  • Traditional antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Chlortrimetron, are effective but tend to cause sleepiness and only work for 4-6 hours at a time.
  • Non-sedating antihistamines, such as Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec are effective medications, and most are available at your local drug- store without a prescription. These work for nasal allergies, skin and eye allergies. They are also sold in preparations that contain a decongestant, like Sudafed, so look at labels before you mix medications.
  • Allergy eye drops can help eye symptoms very quickly. Zatador and Opcon-A are specifically for allergies—they help to treat the reaction instead of just covering up red-eye.

Visit Your Healthcare Provider

When allergies are severe or are not responding to over-the-counter treatment, it’s time to see your primary care doctor. There are prescription medications and other treatments available, as well as allergy testing. Take an active approach to your allergies, so you can continue to enjoy that summertime fun!

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