Best way to fight allergies

Allergy’s severity can dictate the best treatment

If spring’s blossoming trees and growing grasses bring on nonstop sneezing and sniffling, you may wish you could stay inside until summer. About 20 percent of Americans suffer from hay fever, which occurs when your immune system overreacts to pollen. As the body attempts to neutralize the pollen, it releases histamines and other substances that trigger watery eyes, a runny nose and congestion.

● Your symptoms are annoying but tolerable. “Lifestyle strategies may enable you to avoid medication — or reduce the amount you might need,” says Mark Dykewicz, a professor of internal medicine and the chief of allergy and immunology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

But getting relief doesn’t have to cost a fortune or even require a prescription. The best treatment for you depends on the severity of your allergies. Use this guide to find the right approach.

Steer clear of pollen as much as possible. It can collect on your hair and clothing, so after spending time outdoors, take off your shoes and change when you get home to avoid tracking pollen through your house.

Consider showering at night so that you don’t transfer pollen to your bedding. Using a saline nasal rinse at the end of the day will help wash pollen out of your nose.

From the booming allergy drug industry, to the spring allergy capital of America—here are a few things you might not have known about allergy season. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

On days with really high pollen, you might consider staying inside as much as possible. You can check pollen counts in your area on the National Allergy Bureau’s Web site, at www.aaaai.org/global/nab-pollen-counts.aspx.

● Your symptoms interfere with sleep or everyday activities. Over-the-counter drugs can provide relief — but treat only the symptoms you have. You can take care of watery, itchy eyes with antihistamine eyedrops. An over-the-counter oral antihistamine will help eye problems as well as sneezing and, to some degree, congestion. People respond differently to antihistamines, so if you don’t get relief from one type, try another.

Antihistamines sometimes cause dry mouth, headaches and drowsiness, but a bigger drawback is that they tend to become less effective with long-term use. That’s where antihistamine prescription nasal sprays such as azelastine (Astelin and generics) and olopatadine (Patanase) come in. Because they have a higher concentration of the medication and they deliver it directly to nasal passages, sprays are more effective than pills. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Sprays work faster (15 to 30 minutes) and have fewer side effects than pills.

● You have daily symptoms and antihistamines aren’t enough. A nasal steroid spray is your best bet because it reduces inflammation. It can also relieve watery, itchy eyes and help stave off a congestion-related headache. Steroid sprays include prescription-only versions, such as fluticasone propionate (Flonase) and mometasone furoate (Nasonex). One spray, triamcinolone acetonide, is also available over-the-counter as Nasacort Allergy 24HR. More effective than antihistamines for severe symptoms, steroid sprays are considered the gold-standard treatment for allergies. The sprays take up to 12 hours to work, and you may not experience the full effect for a week.

Some doctors are concerned that using a steroid spray on your own can increase the chance of side effects or mask a more serious condition, such as asthma. The side effects include nasal dryness and irritation, sore throat, headache and bleeding sores in your nose.

A delayed wallop of pollen is on the way

● You have daily symptoms and no drug seems to help. Consider immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots. They can eliminate the need for medication in some people, but they require a major time commitment. A standard course of immunotherapy, which is customized by the type of allergies you have, involves getting regular injections at a doctor’s office for three to five years.

This allergy season there are new, more convenient alternatives available that you can ask your doctor about: pills or drops that can be taken at home. This “sublingual immunotherapy” involves placing purified allergen extracts under the tongue to build up your resistance.

The Food and Drug Administration this month approved three allergen extracts: Oralair (a mixture of five grasses) for the treatment of certain pollen allergies in people age 10 through 65; Grastek (timothy grass) for grass pollen allergies in people age 5 through 65; and Ragwitek (short ragweed) for pollen-induced allergy in people 18 through 65 years of age.

Drawbacks? Some studies show they might not be as effective as traditional shots, and the FDA requires that all three carry a black-box warning (the most serious warning) that severe allergic reactions — some of which can be life-threatening — can occur.

Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of United States Inc.

For further guidance, go to www.ConsumerReports.org/Health, where more detailed information, including CR’s ratings of prescription drugs, treatments, hospitals and healthy-living products, is available to subscribers.

14 Allergy Strategies That Bring Relief FAST

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Ah, spring. Trees are budding and gentle breezes are blowing- and your nose is running, your eyes are itching, and your brain is fuzzy. As much as you’d love to just curl up with a box of tissues, you shrug it off and soldier on. After all, it’s only allergies, right?

While it’s easy to trivialize these annoying symptoms-which plague some 36 million Americans-experts say they’re nothing to sneeze at. In fact, 80 percent of seasonal allergy sufferers report being less productive because of the condition, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $700 million a year in lost work, according to a study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Also called hay fever, seasonal allergies worsen when the weather warms up and blossoming flowers, trees, weeds, and grasses spew pollen into the air. “An overzealous immune system mistakes these harmless particles for intruders and releases inflammatory chemicals called histamines and leukotrines to combat them,” explains Thomas B. Casale, chief of allergy/ immunology at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, and president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). Consequently, your airways and nasal linings swell, triggering congestion, wheezing, and foggy thinking.

Although experts aren’t clear why people develop the lifelong condition in the first place, they say genes are partly to blame. While there’s no instant fix for seasonal allergies, making a few tweaks to your environment and schedule-like showering at night instead of in the a.m.-can alleviate symptoms. Try these easy everyday strategies and you’ll finally have a sniffle-free spring.

RELATED: Uncommon Cures for Spring Migraines

AT HOME

1. Block out allergens: The No. 1 antiallergy move is to keep those triggers at bay, so be sure to leave your windows shut during pollen season. Then run the air conditioner on the “recycle” setting, which filters the air that’s indoors. “That will trap any particles that did sneak inside,” says Eric Schenkel, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Also rinse or replace the filter every two weeks to remove any dust and keep it running efficiently.

2. Rethink your bedtime routine: Hopping in the shower in the morning is one way to kick-start your day, but switching to a nighttime routine during the spring and summer can curb your symptoms. You’ll wash away the allergens that stick to your hair and face, so they won’t rub off on your pillow and irritate your eyes and nose. “At the very least, gently clean your eyelids with a little baby shampoo each evening,” suggests Clifford W. Bassett, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, New York.

3. Hit the laundry room more frequently: When you get back from a walk or barbecue, change into a clean set of clothes. Then toss the old ones right into your hamper or laundry so you won’t track allergens throughout the house. And wash your sheets once a week on the hot cycle: Korean researchers recently found that water heated to 140°F eliminates virtually all allergens, including pollen and dust mites, sneeze-causing organisms that thrive in humid weather.

4. Put pets in their place: Dogs and cats that frolic outdoors can collect pollen in their fur and transport it into your home. During hay fever season, ban your pet from your bedroom or at least keep him off the furniture, says Bassett. Bathe him as frequently as possible or wipe him down when he comes in from the yard with a premoistened cloth, such as Simple Solution Allergy Relief from Pets ($7; petco.com).

5. Clear the air: Almost half of seasonal allergy sufferers are also bothered by irritants such as fragrances and cleaning products, according to a recent study in the journal Indoor Air. To breathe easier, invest in a HEPA air purifier, which filters out aggravating indoor pollutants. A good pick: Honeywell HEPA Tower Air Purifier ($250; target.com).

6. Trim your lawn: Not only will your manicured yard be the envy of your neighbors, the shorter blades won’t trap as much pollen from trees and flowers. (But because mowing can stir up pollen, ask someone else to do it-or cover your nose and mouth with a face mask or handkerchief.)

DURING OUTDOOR WORKOUTS

7. Fine-tune your fitness routine: “You breathe at least twice as fast when you’re working out, which means you’ll inhale even more allergens if you exercise outdoors,” says Brian Smart, M.D., a Chicago allergist and AAAAI spokesperson. Morning exercisers are hit hardest of all because airborne allergens peak during the early hours, starting at 4 a.m. and lasting until noon. Because pollen rises as morning dew evaporates, the ideal time for an outdoor workout is in the mid-afternoon, says Christopher C. Randolph, M.D., a clinical associate professor at Yale University’s Division of Allergy in New Haven, Connecticut. He notes that where you work out can also matter: Exercising on the beach, an asphalt tennis court, the track at your local high school, or in the swimming pool are better options than working out on a grassy field.

8. Run right after it rains: “The best time to hit the pavement is immediately after a downpour, because the moisture washes away the pollen for up to several hour” says Gillian Shepherd, M.D., a clinical associate professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. But once the air dries, take cover: The additional moisture generates even more pollen and mold, which can hang around for a few days afterward. (Before heading out, check pollen and mold reports on aaaai.org.)

RELATED: 10 New Outdoor Workout Ideas

9. Slip on shades: Not only do wraparound sunglasses shield you from harmful UV rays, they’ll also stop airborne allergens from getting in your eyes. Another way to ward off symptoms: Use allergy-relieving eyedrops, such as Visine-A ($7; drug store.com), a few hours before heading outside. This will combat histamines, which are the compounds that cause your eyes to water and itch.

10. Drink up: Fill up a water bottle or hydration pack to bring on your run, walk, or bike ride. “Fluids help thin mucus and hydrate the airways, so you won’t get as stuffed up,” says William S. Silvers, M.D., a clinical professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Colorado in Denver. Then use the rest to rinse off any pollen that’s on your face and hands.

AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE

11. ID your triggers: “If you know what they are, you’ll know how to defend yourself against them,” says Smart. Request a skin-prick test, in which an allergist applies a man-made version of the potential allergen to your forearm and makes a small prick in the skin so the solution can enter. If you’re allergic, a lump resembling a mosquito bite will appear at the site.

12. Give your medication a checkup: While some may find relief with an over-the-counter medicine, such as Claritin, Alavert, or Zyrtec-D, others may prefer a stronger one-a-day prescription tablet, such as Singulair. Ask your doctor for her recommendations, but don’t mix your meds: Following a non-drowsy 24-hour drug with a different p.m. pill that night could lead to dizziness, increased heartbeat, and nausea. “But what’s most important is that you take allergy medications as regularly as suggested by a doctor to ward off attacks, rather than when you’re just experiencing symptoms,” says Casale.

13. Try a spray: If you find that pills aren’t easing your symptoms, your M.D. may prescribe a nasal steroid like Veramyst, Flonase, or Nasonex. “These sprays effectively treat runny noses and watery eyes,” says Randolph, who adds that you shouldn’t be put off by the word “steroid.” “Nasal sprays are extremely safe. The small amount of steroids you spritz into your nose is metabolized quickly, so little-if any- actually enters the body.” Use one a few weeks before allergies hit; symptoms will start later and be less severe.

14. Get your shots: If you’re affected by seasonal allergies for more than three months of the year, allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, may be in order. An allergist will inject you with gradually increasing doses of an allergen one to three times a week over the course of up to seven months, which enables you to build up tolerance to the offending substance. (After that, you’ll get the shots once a month for three to five years.) “Shots change the immune system’s pathway,” says Randolph. “They are effective for a number of years, and they can even prevent the development of other allergies as well as asthma.”

3 ways to manage allergies

Allergies can cause great misery. Luckily, there are options to help manage symptoms and continue doing the things you enjoy. The goal is to find the treatment that best suits your allergies, your lifestyle, and your wallet. Here are three of the most common ways to find relief from allergy symptoms.

Antihistamines

These medications are the mainstay for treating the sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes that come with allergies. Antihistamines also relieve hives and other symptoms of some food allergies.
Many people who suffer from hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) are familiar with the older antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton). While these drugs work well, they leave many people feeling groggy, sleepy, or just “out of it.” Thankfully, the newer generation of antihistamines, including cetirizine (Zyrtec), desloratadine (Clarinex), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin), are far less likely to cause drowsiness at recommended doses. Their effects are also longer lasting, so usually you need to take them only once a day instead of every four to six hours.

Decongestants

Decongestants help relieve the stuffy, blocked-nose symptoms of nasal congestion. Short-term use of decongestants usually provides good symptom relief and can make you feel better quickly. But some decongestants can increase your heart rate and blood pressure and keep you awake at night. These medications can worsen prostate problems and glaucoma. If you have existing health problems—particularly a heart condition—be sure to get your doctor’s advice before taking a decongestant. Regular use of decongestant nasal sprays can cause irreparable damage to the lining of the nose, so be sure to follow the directions exactly. Don’t use these too often, or for many days at a time.

Allergy shots

Allergy shots can help reduce sensitivity to the triggers that set off your allergies. This therapy involves injecting small and increasing amounts of allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions) over regular intervals. Typically, this means weekly injections with increasing doses for three to six months and then monthly injections for three to five years.

The treatment can be very effective for seasonal allergies that cause sneezing, nasal congestion, and itchy and swollen eyes. Allergy shots are almost always recommended for life-threatening allergies to stinging insects, and may help in the treatment of allergic asthma. Right now, allergy shots are not used to treat food allergies. The biggest drawback to this treatment is the risk of a potentially serious allergic reaction from the shot itself. Improvements in allergy extracts and dosing schedules have reduced this risk to what researchers estimate is about 1% of all allergy shots.

For more on options on treating allergies buy What to do about Allergies, a Special Health Report from by Harvard Medical School.

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

10 Natural Ways to Defeat Seasonal Allergies

What Causes Seasonal Allergies?

Airborne agents (known as pathogens or allergens), such as pollen, grass, mold, cedar, ragweed, or even some chemicals, are breathed in. Once they enter our bodies, these allergens start to wreak havoc. The immune system mistakenly sees the pollen as a danger and releases antibodies that attack the allergens and release a chemical called histamine into the nose, eyes, and lungs. Histamine is intended to attack harmful agents and remove them from the body. One of the main things that histamine does is cause inflammation.

The good news is there are many natural remedies you can try to control your allergy symptoms:

1. Cleanse your nose

Pollens adhere to our mucus membranes. Try cleansing your nasal passages with a neti pot, sinus irrigator or nasal oils. Here are some tips on how to safely use nasal irrigation treatments.

2. Manage stress

Stress hormones wreak havoc in the body and especially in the immune system, making seasonal allergies even worse. Consider methods of stress management such as meditation, taking time out for self-care and avoid overcommitting your schedule.

3. Try acupuncture

When allergies are treated with acupuncture, underlying imbalances within the body are addressed. A treatment plan is developed to relieve the acute symptoms of allergies while also treating the root problems that are contributing to the body’s reaction to allergens.

4. Explore herbal remedies

Butterbur is an herb, which comes from a European shrub and has shown potential for relieving seasonal allergy symptoms, acting similar to antihistamines. Quercetin is a nutrient found in onions, apples, and black tea that research has shown to block the release of histamines.

5. Consider apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is purported to boost the immune system, help break up mucus, and support lymphatic drainage. Experts recommend mixing one to two tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a glass of water and lemon juice three times a day to relieve allergy symptoms. These tips on how best to use apple cider vinegar will provide additional guidance.

6. Visit a chiropractor

By releasing stress on the nervous system, chiropractic care permits the immune system to function more effectively— something all allergy sufferers need. A nervous system without stress functions more efficiently.

7. Detox the body

Often, allergies are worsened by toxins within the body. The liver is a great mediator of inflammation in the body, and when it is working overtime metabolizing our stress, medications, alcohol, and processed foods, allergies can flare up. Detox your body by eliminating fried foods, sugar, alcohol and other toxins from your diet. Try liver supportive foods and herbs such as milk thistle, turmeric, artichoke, citrus fruits and nuts.

8. Take probiotics

Allergies are the result of an imbalance in the immune system that causes the body to react too strongly to stimuli. Many studies link the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut with reduced incidence of allergies. Probiotics can help stimulate production of immune enhancing substances, hinder growth of pathogenic and boost the immune system.

9. Add essential oils

Adding essential oils to a bath, cup of tea, massage oil, or an oil diffuser can help reduce allergy symptoms. Peppermint, basil, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils have been linked to fight inflammation and boost the immune system. Essential oils for allergies will help to detoxify the body and fight infections, bacteria, parasites, microorganisms and harmful toxins.

10. Clean the house

Regular house cleaning can get rid of many allergy triggers and help relieve your symptoms. Clean or change out the air filters in your home often. Also, clean bookshelves, vents, and other places where pollen can collect. Vacuum carpets and change pillowcases a couple times each week. Cleaning air purifiers is an important step not to overlook. Change your pillowcase regularly – allergens can transfer from your hair to your pillow on a nightly basis.

Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? Do you have any homeopathic and natural allergy relief ideas you want to share with the Sedera Health Community? We want to hear from you!

Sources

How Probiotics Can Help You Prevent and Fight Allergies According to New Research, BodyEcology

Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Health, WebMD

20 Unique Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar, Dr. Axe, Food is Medicine

8 Essential Oils to Beat Allergies, Natural Living Ideas

Disclaimer: The content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Treatment


Allergies

Allergy medicines

Medicines for mild allergies are available from pharmacies without a prescription.

But always ask a pharmacist or GP for advice before starting any new medicine, as they’re not suitable for everyone.

Antihistamines are the main medicines for allergies.

They can be used:

  • as and when you notice the symptoms of an allergic reaction
  • to prevent allergic reactions – for example, you may take them in the morning if you have hay fever and you know the pollen count is high that day

Antihistamines can be taken as tablets, capsules, creams, liquids, eye drops or nasal sprays, depending on which part of your body is affected by your allergy.

Decongestants can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose caused by an allergic reaction.

They can be taken as tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids.

Do not use them for more than a week at a time, as using them for long periods can make your symptoms worse.

Lotions and creams

Red and itchy skin caused by an allergic reaction can sometimes be treated with over-the-counter creams and lotions, such as:

  • moisturising creams (emollients) to keep the skin moist and protect it from allergens
  • calamine lotion to reduce itchiness
  • steroids to reduce inflammation

Steroids

Steroid medicines can help reduce inflammation caused by an allergic reaction.

They’re available as:

  • nasal sprays and eye drops for an inflamed nose and eyes
  • creams for eczema and contact dermatitis
  • inhalers for asthma
  • tablets for hives (urticaria)

Sprays, drops and weak steroid creams are available without a prescription.

Stronger creams, inhalers and tablets are available on prescription from a GP.

What do during allergy attack

Allergy attacks, or allergic reactions, can be frightening, sudden, and extremely uncomfortable. The reason behind why humans experience allergy symptoms and attacks is still being researched. However, we do know allergy symptoms are triggered when your immune system detects an “intruder,” whether that is pollen, mold, dust, dander, or something else. No matter why you experience allergy attacks, they’re inevitably unpleasant and can even be life- threatening. Be sure to seek out medical care immediately if you believe you’re having a severe allergic reaction.

In order to keep yourself safe and healthy in the long run, it’s important to understand exactly what is happening to your body during an allergy attack, and what steps you can take to mitigate your symptoms. To get you started, we’ve compiled some helpful background information on allergies and instructions for what to do during an allergy attack.

What Is an Allergy Attack?

People have been asking why they have to suffer from allergies since they were first being affected by them. While we still aren’t quite sure what causes some people to experience allergic reactions, we do know what’s happening in the body during an allergy attack: it’s as if your immune system reacts to a false alarm in a severe way, and there’s no way for you to tell it that you aren’t actually in any danger.

The purpose of the immune system is to recognize foreign invaders like bacteria and parasites in your environment. When those foreign bodies are detected, your body’s response is to attack the potentially harmful invaders by creating millions of antibodies—proteins that recognize and neutralize the threat. While creating these antibodies, the immune system is supposed to filter out the antibodies that attack the wrong targets, like your body or dust. But that isn’t always how it goes. When the antibodies react to non-threatening allergens, such as food or pollen, allergy attacks occur.

Symptoms of an Allergy Attack

Because there are so many different types of allergies and potential allergens out there, your allergy symptoms may look very different from another person’s. For example, seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever) typically manifest as sneezing, postnasal drip, a stuffy or runny nose, and a sore throat. Allergies stemming from an insect sting or certain medication, on the other hand, can produce symptoms like swelling, itching, and hives.

Mild allergic reactions are typically just uncomfortable. However, more severe allergic reactions to the same substances are possible. Everyone’s body is different, and what triggers no response or a mild reaction in one person could trigger a severe allergy attack in another. Bee stings, peanuts, and tree nuts are common causes of more serious allergic reactions.

Pay attention to your body, and watch for severe allergy symptoms like:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Flushed skin
  • Hives, rash
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing or breathing problems
  • Abnormal pulse
  • Swelling of the face, lips or throat
  • Trouble talking or swallowing

These are symptoms of serious allergic reactions. If you simply have a rash and itching, it is ok to start treatment at home with antihistamines such as Benadryl. If you have more than simple rash and itching, seek care as soon as possible. Anaphylaxis is defined as allergic symptoms in more than one body system and should be evaluated right away. If you are having a severe reaction with trouble breathing, trouble talking or swelling in the mouth, call 911.

Types of Allergies

An allergic reaction can happen when you ingest, touch, or inhale whatever you’re allergic to. For those who suffer from seasonal allergies, just stepping out your front door could be a challenge, because you’ll inevitably be faced with puffy eyes and a runny nose. What’s more, is there may not be anything you can do about it. If both of your parents have allergies, you run a 60-70 percent chance of also having those allergies, and they may not even develop until later in your life.

Let’s take a look at some types of these allergies that can cause an allergy attack. What causes an allergy attack depends on each person’s unique reaction to an invading substance. However, there are a number of common substances that cause allergic reactions:

  • Food: Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies in the U.S.
  • Any medicine can cause an allergic reaction.
  • Insects: Venom from bee, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket stings, fire ants
  • Latex: Found in rubber gloves, balloons, rubber bands, condoms, and more
  • Other allergies: Pet dander, dust, mold, pollen, cockroaches, or even household items like laundry detergents, cosmetics, and hairspray

As you can see, allergies can stem from an incredibly vast number of triggers. Nearly anywhere you go could be chock-full of allergy triggers, so knowing how to treat or diminish symptoms when they occur could be the difference between muddling through and enjoying your day. Which would you prefer?

How You Can Treat Your Allergy Symptoms

When you feel ravaged by allergies, don’t lose all hope. There are a lot of things you can do to minimize the detrimental effects of mild to severe allergies. Whether that involves being armed with an Epinephrine pen, heading to your nearest Urgency Room, or treating your allergies at home with over-the-counter medications, knowing what to do when allergies strike could save you from discomfort or even life-threatening scenarios.

Employ At-Home Allergy Remedies

There are some simple and obvious approaches for avoiding or minimizing allergic reactions. First of all, you can try to avoid your allergens altogether. Symptoms for seasonal allergies can include a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, wheezing, or itching. These types of allergies are mostly encountered outside. Checking your local weather station should tell you what the outdoor air quality is like in your specific area in terms of pollutants. There are resources, however, offered by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) that will also tell you your local pollen and mold report. By checking your immediate air quality reports, you can better prepare for going outdoors.

If you’re very sensitive to outdoor or seasonal allergies, consider taking an antihistamine before heading outside. You may also find a saline rinse helpful in relieving hay fever symptoms. Lastly, minimize airborne allergens, such as pollen and pet dander, in your home by switching out your old air filter for a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

How to Handle Anaphylactic Shock

More severe allergy attacks will not abate with home remedies, and it’s essential that you quickly recognize more serious symptoms, like abdominal cramps and breathing problems. What should you do in the case of anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock?

If you are alone, immediately call 911. Anaphylactic shock happens quickly, and your throat could swell and cut off your supply of oxygen within minutes, causing permanent and serious damage. If you know you are at risk for severe allergic reactions, always carry an Epinephrine pen, or two, with you at all times. Epinephrine quickly reduces and reverses anaphylactic symptoms as it’s comprised of adrenaline. You can never predict when a bee will sting you or a food you’re allergic to wind up on your plate, so take the appropriate steps to protect yourself. You should also make your close friends and family aware of your allergy, so that they can also be on the lookout for severe symptoms and be ready to take the appropriate steps if you’re unable to.

Know What to Do When Allergies Strike

Allergens can sneak into your life on your daily walk, a plate of food, or anywhere in between. You might be born with them or develop them years down the line. Knowing what to do when you or someone you know is having an allergy attack could be the difference between life and death.

When experiencing serious allergy symptoms, heading to your local Urgency Room could bring you relief faster than you thought possible. Our skilled and experienced emergency physicians and nurses are well trained to care for serious allergic reactions. At the UR, we treat the allergy symptoms. Treating and allergic reaction does not require any testing and we do not do allergy testing. We’re dedicated to helping you return to your healthy self as soon as possible.

You don’t have to suffer through your allergies alone. Get the care you need now and the tools you need to avoid future allergy attacks. The Urgency Room operates three convenient Minnesota locations in Eagan, Vadnais Heights, and Woodbury. We’re open 365 days per year from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., including holidays. When minutes matter, especially during an allergy attack, get to The Urgency Room.

5 Things to Do to Feel Better During Spring Allergy Season

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (February 23, 2017) – Nobody said spring allergies would be fun, but you never thought it would be this bad. What if you had some simple ways to avoid the sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes and runny nose that come in the spring?

“People think they’re doing everything they can to battle spring allergies,” says allergist Stephen Tilles, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “But many still find themselves under siege from pollen and other allergens that appear once the weather starts to warm up. What they don’t realize is that by following a few simple rules they can make life a lot more pleasant, and their allergies more bearable.”

1. Spring cleaning can spruce up your nasal passages – Sweeping up the cobwebs that gathered over the winter is good for more than just making your house look better. A deep house scrub can help eliminate existing allergens and clear the air. It’s especially important to get rid of mold, which builds up in bathrooms and basements and is a major allergen – especially in spring months when there’s lots of moisture. Because your pets have spent a lot of time indoors over the winter, fur, saliva and dander have probably collected. Vacuuming frequently and washing upholstery and pet beds can help.

2. The power of pollen – Some people with allergies may not realize that symptoms they think are allergy-related, might actually be asthma. Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of those with asthma also have an allergy, which can make the spring season particularly difficult. If you can’t get rid of a cough, or get winded easily, you might have asthma related to allergies and should see an allergist. An allergist can identify the source of your asthma, and help you treat your allergies to improve symptoms.

3. Time to clear the air – Despite what you may have heard, the best way to clean the air in your home is not with an ionic air filter. The ionization changes the charge on a particle of pollen or dust and the particle sticks to the next thing it comes into contact with, often a wall or surface. There is usually not enough air flow to effectively filter many particles, so ionic filters don’t provide much benefit for allergy sufferers. There is also a health risk which comes from the ozone they produce. The best way to clean the air is with a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). For those with central air, change your air filters every three months and use filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12.

4. Wait, don’t smell that “fresh” air – Spring comes and you just want to open your windows and let in the fresh air. Don’t do it. Opening your windows allows pollen to drift inside, settle into your carpet, furniture and upholstery and continue to make you miserable. So keep your house and car windows shut during allergy season. Use your air conditioning with the new air filter you just put in.

5. Don’t trust “Dr. Google” – You know you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, but it’s so tempting to look up cures for your symptoms. Instead, consult an allergist. An allergist is trained in how to identify your allergens and treat your symptoms. They can suggest the most appropriate medications to treat your allergies and asthma. You might even benefit from allergy shots (immunotherapy) which can greatly alleviate allergic suffering.

If you think you might be one of the more than 50 million Americans that suffer from allergy and asthma, ACAAI can help you find an allergist in your area. To learn more, watch Spring Sneezing Season.

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USC Pharmacist Katty Hsu, PharmD, shares five tips for easing symptoms during allergy season.

  1. Reduce Your Exposure to Seasonal Allergy Triggers
    As we move into spring and summer, be mindful of seasonal allergy triggers such as pollen, ragweed, mold and dust mites. Try to stay indoors on dry windy days and minimize outdoor activity in the evening when pollen counts are the highest. After a day out, it helps to change out of clothes worn and shower to remove pollen from your skin and hair.
  2. Monitor Pollen Count
    Checking pollen allergy forecasts is just as easy as viewing weather forecasts! Keep in mind that pollen forecasts do differ depending on which part of the city you are in and look out for an accurate forecast. This will help you foresee when high pollen counts are forecasted and be prepared to take allergy medications before symptoms start.
  3. Know Your Allergies
    It’s the season for spring cleaning and keeping your environment as ideal as possible. If you’re allergic to pollen, keep your windows closed and use an air conditioner when possible. Investing in a dehumidifier is also a good idea as it keeps the air dry and can relieve allergy symptoms. If you’re allergic to dust and mold, keep your windows open and let fresh air in – it can clear out allergens at home. Also consider cleaning your floors regularly with a vacuum cleaner, preferably one with a HEPA filter.
  4. Over-the-Counter Medications
    Several kinds of non-prescription medications are available to ease allergy symptoms such as oral antihistamines, antihistamine eye drops, decongestants, and nasal sprays. These medications work best for people with mild allergy symptoms.
  5. Come in and Meet Your USC Pharmacist
    If your symptoms continue to worsen despite doing your best to shield yourself from allergens and taking non-prescription medication, seek out a USC Pharmacist for a professional opinion. We are here to help recommend the best option to manage your allergies and can refer you to an allergist if needed.

Due to several years of record-breaking levels of seasonal pollens, it is essential to have an allergy survival plan in place. Why such high levels? Climate change, the rise in worldwide temperatures and greenhouse gases, record amounts of precipitation, and overplanting of male plants have resulted in longer allergy seasons. All these factors have created a perfect storm for those who suffer from seasonal and mold allergies.

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Stay one step ahead for an allergy-free season! First, you need to know if you have seasonal allergies so you can customize a successful allergen avoidance and management plan.

Second, many sufferers don’t realize that medications (nasal antihistamines/steroids, oral antihistamines and eye drops) often work better before symptoms take hold. You may actually need less if started before peak allergy periods.

Allergies can take a toll on many areas of your life. Sleep is big one. Allergy sufferers are often sleepy during the day, especially if you are hooked on drowsiness-causing OTC medications or insomnia-causing oral decongestants. Daytime fatigue can actually be caused, in part, as a result of blocked nasal passages that disrupt sleep patterns. That’s what I refer to as “allergy fatigue syndrome.”

Get the right treatment to control your seasonal and indoor allergies, so you can breathe better at night and have better quality rest. It’s time to break the cycle, get treated successfully, and sleep better. Eventually, you won’t even need that extra latte!

Here are some allergy survival strategies that I have found to be extremely helpful to allergy sufferers:

Stay Cool: Cool eye compresses may improve appearance and reduce unwanted eye allergy symptoms.

Be a Star: Wear big sunglasses to block pollen entry into your eyes and eyelids, especially on windy days.

Rinse Wisely: Wash your eyelids gently when you wash your face each morning. Shampoo your hair in the evening if you have been out on high-pollen days (or after being outdoors) to remove and wash away unwanted seasonal pollens and molds. This will stop them from landing on your pillow and bed sheets during the night. Change your clothing before entering your bedroom to reduce pollens from being brought into your bedroom.

Wear a Hat: Get a sombrero! Wear a wide-brimmed hat to prevent pollens from landing on top of your head.

Say No to Hair Gel: Don’t use hair gel and similar hair-care products that can act as “pollen magnets” during the height of allergy season.

Avoid the Pollen Problem: Consider exercising indoors on very high-pollen days. Higher levels of pollens are usually found on warm, dry and windy days.

Plan Ahead and Know Your Pollen Count: Go to AAAAI.org/NAB for accurate pollen and mold levels in your area. Pollen levels are typically higher on warm, sunny, dry and windy days, and lower on cooler, moist, wet and “windless” days.

Mask It: Wear a pollen mask, use gloves and avoid touching your eyes and face. This can really help during gardening or lawn mowing.

Don’t Line Dry: Never line dry clothing outdoors on high-pollen days, as it will adhere to your linens, towels, etc.

Avoid Certain Plants and Flowers

They may be pretty, but it’s better to keep your distance. Many flowers will drive up your allergy symptoms, especially if you really inhale their aroma up close. Avoid the following: Daisies, chrysanthemum, amaranthus, dahlia, sunflower, black-eyed Susan, zinnia, privet and lilac.

Try an Allergy-Friendly Garden: Plant gladiolus, periwinkle, begonia, bougainvillea, iris and orchid. These plants won’t aggravate your allergies.

Start Your Allergy Treatment Early: See an allergist for simple, fast, reliable allergy tests so you can get relief.

Get Shot: Allergy injections are the only immune-based therapy we have that will actually reduce and slow down “allergic disease” progression. It will provide excellent long-term relief in over 85% of patients.

The Next Wave, Allergy Drops: During the last 70 years, state-of-the-art treatment for allergies has been shots, also known as allergy immunotherapy. By receiving small quantities over time of the exact allergens the patient is allergic to, physicians can reduce and potentially eliminate the patient’s allergies. But oral allergy drops could be the wave of the future. An exciting new study recently released offers allergy sufferers an alternative treatment to the traditional shots.

The study, out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This scientific review of more than 60 published studies on the use of oral allergy drops, in more than 5,000 European patients, proves them to be an effective option in treating allergy symptoms. The typical allergens used in this review included pollens, dust mites, pet dander and molds. This could potentially be good news for the 40-plus million allergy sufferers in the United States, especially those who hate getting stuck with a needle.

Allergy drops are similar to shots; however, the allergen is taken underneath the tongue, instead of being injected into the arm. Children, adolescents and adults who have allergies in the US may find this approach appealing, as the drops can be taken at home, as opposed to the doctor’s office. Researchers cautioned allergy sufferers to weigh the pros and cons of receiving this treatment before making a decision. There are some side effects associated with the oral allergy drops, including itchiness of the mouth, but no life-threatening reactions were reported.

The drops are currently only available in Europe, as well as some other countries abroad. At the present time, there are no companies producing an oral allergy drop in the US that’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In my opinion, it appears likely the sublingual oral allergy drops for treatment of allergic asthma and allergies will be widely available at an allergist’s office near you in the coming years. As always, see an allergist for recommendations on the best course of effective allergy care and treatment.

Medications Work: Effective and safe choices for relief include: OTC nasal saline sprays/rinses, prescription nasal steroid and antihistamines, oral antihistamines, leukotriene blockers and allergy eye drops.

Clean the Air: At home or when driving, keep windows closed and set the air conditioner on “re-circulate” to keep out the pollens. Clean filters in air conditioners frequently during allergy season to get the best efficiency. The MERV is a rating scale that tells you how good a filter is at removing allergens in your home. The higher the rating, the better off you are. Look for a MERV value of 11-12.

Avoid Window Fans: This is a rather good way to bring in unwanted pollens or mold spores. If you don’t want that, skip window fans.

Avoid Cross-Reactions: As many as 1 in 3 seasonal allergy sufferers may experience “oral allergy syndrome” (tingling of the mouth or itchy throat) after ingesting certain foods (apples, pears, carrots, celery, peaches, cherries, as well as almonds and hazelnuts). If you have seasonal tree pollen allergies, this is due to a cross-reaction between the proteins in these foods and the pollens. Melons, tomatoes and oranges may cross-react with grass pollens. If you are sensitive to weed pollens watch out for melon, chamomile tea, and banana. Review this Seasonal Allergy Cross-Reaction Chart.

Enjoy the great outdoors this season with these simple, practical and proven ways to stay allergy-free!

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