It’s Almost Sneezin’ Season
Many people dread the end of winter for one reason: allergies. What can you do to ease allergy symptoms and enjoy those warmer spring days?
What Triggers Spring Allergies?
Pollen released into the air as trees, weeds and grasses bloom can wreak havoc for seasonal allergy sufferers. Symptoms include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Swollen eyes
In Minnesota, trees typically begin to release pollen in late March or early April, lasting until the end of May. This is the main trigger of spring allergies.
What Can I Do to Help My Allergy Symptoms?
You can find relief from spring allergies by taking medication, limiting exposure to pollen or trying a combination of both. Medication options include pills, nasal sprays and liquids. Many are available over the counter.
- Nasal corticosteroid sprays reduce inflammation in your nose. They can reduce all allergy symptoms and have few side effects, making them one of the most effective choices for many people.
- Antihistamines stop your body from reacting to histamines, which are produced by your immune system when your body reacts to allergens. Antihistamines can be effective at stopping itching, sneezing and runny nose, but they can cause side effects, including sleepiness, dizziness, reduced appetite and irritability.
- Decongestants can help relieve nasal stuffiness by constricting the membranes of the nose. Possible side effects include dizziness, insomnia, anxiety and high blood pressure, so this type of medicine is not appropriate for everyone.
- Cromolyn sodium nasal spray blocks the chemical release that causes allergy symptoms. Unlike other nasal sprays, cromolyn sodium must be used several times a day and can cause side effects such as itching or burning in your nose, sneezing, headache and stomach pain.
If over-the-counter medications aren’t working for you, speak to a healthcare provider. The nurse practitioner and physician’s assistant at River’s Edge Express Clinic may be able to offer a prescription medication that can help you find relief.
Keep in mind that medications work best if you start taking them several weeks before allergy season begins. This way, the medication can help prevent symptoms before they even start.
You can also take additional steps to limit your exposure to pollen:
- Change your clothes after outdoor activities.
- Keep windows closed in your home and car.
- Shower and wash your hair before going to bed.
- Spend less time outdoors when pollen counts are high.
- Wash your bedding once a week.
Should I Try Allergy Shots?
For some people with severe chronic allergies, medications do not provide much relief. If this is the case for you, your healthcare provider might recommend allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots. This is a series of shots in which the allergen is injected into the fat under the skin. The first shot contains a small amount of the allergen, with the dose getting higher with each shot. Over time, this helps your body create antibodies to fight the allergen, reducing the severity of symptoms.
This process takes time; most people get weekly shots for about six months, followed by monthly shots for several years. After three to five years, many people no longer have symptoms and can stop getting shots.
Talk with your healthcare provider to determine the right course of action for your allergies. Or if you would like to see a friendly nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant without waiting for an appointment, visit River’s Edge Express Clinic, conveniently located in the Hilltop Hy-Vee in Mankato. The clinic is open to walk-in patients seven days a week.
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