Allergies affect one out of six Americans and cost millions of dollars in medications, physician services and missed days from school and work.
With weather reaching record highs this early in the year, many people have experienced an early onset of allergies. It is important to know what you can do to treat and prevent them.
Working with your family physician to determine if your symptoms are the common cold or an ongoing allergy problem is a crucial first step.
“Since the spring season started early this year, I saw patients in my office about four to six weeks earlier than usual. Families told me that they had to start their over-the-counter and/or prescription medications earlier than usual this year,” said Mike Sevilla, a family physician in Salem, Ohio.
According to familydoctor.org, you have an allergy when your body overreacts to things that do not cause problems for most people. These things are called allergens. If you have allergies, when you are exposed to an allergen, your body releases chemicals. One type of chemical that your body releases is called histamine. Histamine is your body’s defense against the allergen. The release of histamine causes your symptoms.
There are many types of allergens including mold, dust, dander and pollen from trees, grass and weeds. “Spring pollen also makes lung conditions like asthma and emphysema worse. I heard a lot from parents whose children were starting their spring sports and reporting that their asthma symptoms were worse than usual this year. This was a great opportunity to talk about their asthma treatment plan and to review their medications,” Dr. Sevilla said.
There are many options available to treat allergic responses. Two of the four main medical options available are antihistamines and decongestants. If you think you may be suffering from allergies, visit your family physician for testing, treatment and relief.
“In general, for symptoms of cough, sneezing, watery eyes and others, I recommend over-the-counter allergy medications to start out with. However, if symptoms continue, then I recommend people see their family physician to evaluate for other potential diagnoses like respiratory infection,” said Dr. Sevilla.
Steps for avoiding outdoor allergens that trigger symptoms:
• Keep windows in your home closed as much as possible to prevent pollen from drifting into your home.
• Keep your car windows closed when traveling.
• The best times of day to be outdoors are when the pollen levels are lower. This is typically on rainy, cloudy and windless days.
• When gardening, avoid touching your eyes and face.
• Take a shower after spending time outside; pollen can collect on your hair and skin.
• Pay attention to pollen levels.