Ahhh spring. After being pent up all winter, many St. Louis residents are excited to spend time outside among green grass and flowers. But if you have allergies, you’re probably staying inside as long as possible to avoid the wheezing and sneezing that pollen can cause.
Instead of avoiding the outdoors all together, let’s discuss how to recognize and treat allergy related illnesses that are common in spring. Understanding what to look for and how to handle it will allow you to enjoy this beautiful season much more.
Asthma attacks are common during cold and flu season, but if you’re allergic to pollen you may experience asthma symptoms in spring, including chest tightness, nighttime coughing and decreased exercise tolerance. To improve your symptoms, your doctor can prescribe a preventative inhaler and/or allergy medication which can be stopped once pollen counts are lower.
If you wake up to eyes that are red and itchy, don’t automatically assume you have pink eye. Conjunctivitis, or red eyes, is a common allergic reaction when pollen gets into the eyes and unlike pink eye, allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. If you’re not sure how to tell if your red eyes are due to allergies, here are some things to ask:
Is there crust, green drainage or swelling? Pink eye causes yucky discharge that can crust and seal your eyes shut, and often requires an antibiotic to clear it up.
Is there something in your eye? A red, irritated eye can be caused by a piece of dirt or hair getting stuck in the eye. It’s usually only one eye that is affected, and removing the item should give your relief.
Is there a lot of clear tearing along with redness and itching? If so, allergies are probably the reason. You can use a cool wet washcloth to relieve your discomfort, use saline drops to flush out the pollen, or ask your doctor about prescription eye drops to alleviate eye allergies.
Spring allergies cause irritation to your sinuses including nasal congestion, itchy throat, sneezing and post-nasal drip. This is called allergic rhinitis, and it can make you feel like you constantly have a cold. The main way to tell if your symptoms are due to a virus or from allergies is by how long they last. If you’re feeling miserable for longer than a month in the spring, it’s probably due to allergies. Here are some ways to control the symptoms:
Nasal saline or antihistamine spray – You may find relief just from using a saline spray to flush out pollen, or an antihistamine nasal spray to help your body accept the pollen.
Oral antihistamine and decongestants – Antihistamines work by blocking the action of histamine and can relieve itchiness, sneezing and nasal congestion. Decongestants can help with nasal congestion caused by allergies. You can get antihistamine and decongestants either separately or in one medication.
Prescription medications – An allergist may prescribe oral antihistamines or nasal spray if he believes it’s the best way to relieve your allergy symptoms.
Allergy shots (Immunotherapy) – If your allergies are severe, your doctor may suggest you try allergy shots. By injecting small doses of the allergen into your body, your immune system builds up a tolerance for the allergen. You’ll go once a week, then once a month and eventually every few months for maintenance visits. Many patients’ spring allergy symptoms have been reduced with immunotherapy.
Many spring allergy sufferers can’t tell whether their symptoms are due to allergies or a more serious problem like a sinus infection, which needs to be treated with an antibiotic. Instead of allergy symptoms such as clear tears and itchy eyes, sinus infections cause:
•A sinus headache, with pain and severe pressure behind the eyes, forehead and upper cheeks
•Green discharge from the nose and sometimes from the eyes that lasts for more than 10 days
•A “junky” cough due to thick mucous dripping into the upper chest
•Fatigue – more than what is caused by a typical cold or allergies
Need Answers About Your Allergy-Related Illness?
If you’re not sure whether your symptoms are allergy-related, or if you’d like to discuss how allergy treatments such as immunotherapy can help you enjoy spring in St. Louis, make an appointment with a Sound Health doctor by calling (314) 332-1377 today. We look forward to helping you!