If you have seasonal allergies, you don’t have to hide inside with a box of tissues until the season passes. The right combination of lifestyle adjustments, over-the-counter medications and prescription remedies can help you enjoy the outdoors along with everyone else.
The first step in fighting allergies is identifying what you’re up against. Dr. James Turek, a family medicine physician with Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Garden City, says most seasonal allergy sufferers don’t need to spend money on allergy tests to know which allergies they have.
“If you primarily have allergy symptoms in the spring, you’re probably allergic to tree pollen,” he says. “If it’s during summer, your problem is almost certainly grass pollen. And if it’s fall, the most likely candidate is ragweed pollen.”
Year-round allergies, on the other hand, are typically due to allergens in your regular environment, such as dust mites or pet dander. Although some of these can have a seasonal component, too. For example, pet-dander allergies can pick up during spring when dogs start shedding their undercoats.
Once you understand the nature of your allergies, prepare in advance. Dr. Turek suggests you begin using an antihistamine a couple of weeks before your seasonal allergy symptoms usually start. This will help you get your system ready before it’s bombarded with the allergen, he says.
Once the season gets into full swing, continue your antihistamine regularly. There are a lot of medications on the market to cater to the millions of Americans who have allergies. Dr. Turek recommends non-drowsy over-the-counter versions such loratadine, which is available under several brand names.
You will also want to manage your exposure to allergens. This doesn’t mean shutting yourself inside, but you may want to take special precautions such as keeping house and car windows closed or washing your hair before bedtime.
If you’re already using a combination of over-the-counter medications and lifestyle adjustments and you’re still having severe allergy symptoms that aren’t responding to treatment, or if you are suffering from wheezing and asthma-like symptoms, it may be time to see your family physician.
Your physician can prescribe a medication such as Singulair, a mast cell stabilizer, to boost your allergy protection. If that type of therapy is ineffective, it may be time to consider allergy testing with a specialist.