If you sneeze so much that you’re considering buying stock in Kleenex, you may suffer from seasonal allergies. Also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, it occurs when your immune system overreacts to a substance that is usually not harmful. “As a result, certain cells in your immune system release chemicals including histamine, which trigger your allergy symptoms,” says allergist Robert Zemble, MD, with LVPG Allergy, Asthma and Immunology–1605 N. Cedar Crest.
Take Control of Your Allergies
When pollen counts rise, so do symptoms from seasonal allergies
The substances that set off your allergies are called allergens. Some examples of common allergens include:
- Pollens from trees, grasses or ragweed
- Dust mites
- Pet hair or dander
What are allergy symptoms?
Allergy symptoms that occur in the spring, summer or fall are seasonal allergies. Perennial allergies are those that happen year-round. Some symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy nose, mouth, throat or skin
- Itchy or teary eyes
How are allergies diagnosed?
“If you think you may have allergies, you can make an appointment with an allergist,” Dr. Zemble says. This is a doctor with special training in diagnosing allergens that may be triggering your symptoms. An allergist will perform allergy testing. One type of allergy testing is skin testing. This involves putting very small amounts of particular allergens into your skin by making a tiny prick on the skin’s surface. “If you’re allergic to a certain substance, you’ll have a reaction, such as swelling or itching, on the spot where it was placed,” Dr. Zemble says.
How are allergies treated?
“Having allergies doesn’t mean you have to suffer,” Dr. Zemble says. “One of the most helpful things you can do is avoid allergens that make your symptoms flare.” Here are some ways you can do that:
- Stay inside when mold or pollen counts are high.
- Keep your windows closed in your car and home. Use air conditioning instead.
- Regularly wash your bedding in hot water to get rid of dust mites.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting and use throw rugs you can wash instead.
- Don’t leave food or dirty dishes out, which can attract cockroaches.
- Fix household leaks to prevent mold.
“If you can’t completely avoid the allergens you’re sensitive to, there are over-the-counter and prescription medicines that can reduce your symptoms,” Dr. Zemble says. Talk with your doctor or clinician about which medicines might work best for you. Some examples include:
- Antihistamines to block the action of histamine to reduce your symptoms
- Intranasal corticosteroids to reduce nasal allergic inflammation
- Decongestants to reduce stuffiness and pressure due to swelling in your nasal cavity
- Saline nasal sprays to help with nasal dryness
Finally, your doctor or clinician may suggest a treatment called immunotherapy to help treat your allergies. “With immunotherapy, you’re exposed to very small amounts of the substances you’re allergic to either through a shot or in a tablet placed under your tongue,” Dr. Zemble says. “With time, you become less sensitive to the allergens and your symptoms improve.”