This article was originally featured in Brigham Health Hub.
Paige G. Wickner, MD, MPH, is an allergist in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
If you have seasonal allergies, you may be starting to feel the effects of the spring allergy season.
Most patients with seasonal allergies will need some sort of medical treatment to get adequate relief. Often, a prescription nasal steroid spray is among the most effective courses of treatment for seasonal allergies, but compliance is critical if patients want to consistently feel well. Using the spray before the allergy season starts and continuing to use it on a daily basis provides protection when pollen arrives.
Second generation oral antihistamines may be sufficient for patients with mild allergies and can be used in combination with the nasal spray. In addition, a saline nasal rinse with distilled water can help wash out pollen and mucous from the nasal passages.
When nasal sprays, antihistamines, and other medications don’t provide significant relief, an allergist can help guide patients on the utility of testing and the risks and benefits of allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy (medication placed under the tongue). These therapies require a time commitment and planning, however they can help with seasonal allergies as well as asthma driven by allergies. For many patients, a course of allergy shots can provide a lifetime of relief.
Some additional strategies to help minimize pollen exposure include:
- Stay indoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen counts are typically highest.
- Wash your clothes and clean your hair often to get rid of pollen.
- Dry your clothes and bedding indoors instead of outside where it can collect pollen.
- Keep your car and house windows closed, particularly on hot, dry, and windy days. (An air conditioner can help to filter out pollen.)
Regardless of the nature of your seasonal allergy, it’s likely that there’s a treatment that will provide you with relief. Consult your physician today to find a course of therapy that works for you.