If you have allergies, you know it. “When you inhale pollen, the particles act as an irritant to the lining of the nose and cause it to release certain chemicals. Then comes an inflammatory response that causes your nose to increase the amount of mucus it makes and a sensation of itchiness in your eyes,” explains Dr. Michael Ferguson, ear, nose and throat doctor at Wake Specialty Physicians. Springtime can be the most bothersome.
“The yellow stuff coating your car is not what most people are allergic to because those pollen spores are really big. They are an announcement that tree season has arrived,” educates Ferguson. Once you get a handle on allergies, the season becomes easier. “The goal of treatment is to avoid things that cause the histamine response and if you cannot avoid it, then finding medications is helpful,” says Ferguson. Simple lifestyle modifications can have a measurable impact. To protect yourself from outdoor allergens, you should keep your windows closed and shower or at least change clothes when coming inside. “Pollen sticks to your clothes, hair and body. You do not want to come in and sit down in your house and suffer with it,” says Ferguson.
There are also indoor allergens such as dust or pets. “If you are allergic to pets, you should keep them out of your bedroom. You should also change your air filters on a regular basis,” advises Ferguson. Take care of your carpeting. “I recommend to vacuum everyday because carpet is notorious for tracking dust and pet dander,” says Ferguson.
Some antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtec used to require a prescription but are now over-the-counter. “Histamines are the chemical that the lining of your nose and eyes release. In reaction to things that you are allergic to, histamines cause the nasal stuffiness, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes,” tells Ferguson. With antihistamines, you can block those chemicals and prevent symptoms.
A simple saline nasal spray is another effective solution. “It helps dilute the chemicals or irritants out of your nasal passages,” says Ferguson. In more serious cases, medications may be prescribed or allergy testing may be done to pinpoint the triggers.
Watch for improvement. “You may have a scenario where the inflammation and runny nose from allergies causes your nose to get blocked up enough to lead to a subsequent infection,” says Ferguson. Fever, chest congestion and sinus pressure are indicators that you may have more than allergies going on. “If you are having symptoms after ten to fourteen days, it is worth seeing a doctor,” says Ferguson.
The good news is that while you may suddenly develop allergies, you can outgrow them too since the body is constantly changing.