(RxWiki News) When spring is in full swing, allergy season isn't far behind. But what can patients do to help keep themselves allergy-free this season?
Around 50 million Americans have seasonal allergies — also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis — according to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
An allergy is characterized by an overreaction of your immune system to a foreign substance (an allergen). The most frequent trigger of springtime seasonal allergies is tree pollen.
You might be tempted to pack up and move, but allergens are everywhere, so that might not help. You can, however, decrease your risk of having allergy symptoms by taking precautions during seasons when you are most affected. These seasonal precautions include the following (among other possible precautions):
- Close your windows.
- Dust surfaces and vacuum frequently.
- Use a high-quality air filter and change it often.
- Remove your shoes before going into your home.
- Remove and wash your clothing after being outdoors
- Before bed, shower and shampoo your hair.
- Minimize time outside during seasons when you are most affected. You can always check the local TV or radio station or the internet for pollen forecasts and pollen levels. This information can help you plan outdoor activities on the days when the pollen counts are low.
There are a variety of over-the-counter medications that can reduce your allergy symptoms. Experts suggest taking allergy medicine early to stop the symptoms before they start. These types of medications may include the following:
- Oral antihistamines – Loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Steroid nasal sprays – Fluticasone (Flonase) and triamcinolone acetonide (Nasacort)
- Decongestants – Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and phenylephrine
- Decongestant nasal sprays – Oxymetazoline (Afrin)
- Combination medications (antihistamine and a decongestant) – Zyrtec-D, Claritin-D and Allegra-D
- Saline products
There are also prescription options. Your doctor will determine whether a prescription medication is necessary.
As always, talk to your pharmacist or doctor before starting any over-the-counter treatment to make sure it is safe for you. Medications like decongestants are not safe for patients with high blood pressure or thyroid conditions, for example.
Furthermore, it is important to read the directions. For instance, the decongestant nasal spray oxymetazoline (Afrin) can only be used for a maximum of a few days. If you use it longer than recommended, it can actually make your nasal congestion worse.
Speak with your health care provider if you have any questions.