Spring is finally here! Time to break out the athletic gear, hit the trails and get that fresh air deep into the lungs. But, along with that fresh spring air come allergens–the pollens, dusts and molds that can make 30-40% of Americans lives miserable…at least for a few months.
When it comes to allergies, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To understand this, let’s look into what causes seasonal allergies. In order to prevent and fight infections, our bodies make antibodies. These little guys attach to bacteria and viruses and “tag” them for the rest of our immune system to destroy, keeping us healthy and well.
However, for some people, the immune system gets tricked by pollen, dust, or whatever allergen a given individual is sensitive to. This causes certain immune cells to release histamine, which leads to the itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and everything else we associate with seasonal allergies.
Enter: antihistamines. We have a number of medications to choose from: first-generation, such as diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine, second-generation such as loratadine or cetirizine and even third-generation antihistamines like levocetirizine or desloratadine. These drugs all prevent histamine from being released into the body, helping treat allergy symptoms. The problem is, once the histamine has been released, it’s too late. So, taking these medications early, before your symptoms become severe, is key.
Unfortunately, all medications have side effects. For antihistamines, daytime sleepiness or “medicine-head” are prevalent. This is what differentiates the three generations of these medications. However, everyone is different, and how their body will react to a certain medication is not always predictable, so there may be some trial-and-error in any given allergy sufferer.
An alternative to these oral antihistamines are the various nasal sprays, which target the nasal passages and sinuses directly. Most of these sprays are steroids (the anti-inflammatory kind, not the Arnold Schwarzenegger kind), but there are also antihistamine sprays and pseudoephedrine, which helps to dry up nasal secretions. Since these medications are delivered directly to the place that’s irritated, they generally have fewer side effects, but not everyone enjoys a squirt of medication right up the nose. Again, most of these are best used early, to prevent the allergies from starting. With any of the above medications, be sure to take them as directed, and contact your doctor or consult with an allergist if needed.
Finally, making sure that your home environment is allergen-free can also help protect you and your loved ones. Be sure to check and change the air filters in your home ventilation system, and consider a filter build specifically to help reduce allergens. Vacuum any rugs, carpets or furniture that could harbor dust, mold or other irritants. Take the cat or dog to the groomer to remove excessive hair, fur and dander. Dust off any surfaces that need it. That whole “Spring cleaning” thing might just have something to it. Choose A+ Urgent Care for all of your needs.