Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program
ASAP News & Media
Springtime Leaves Many Seeking Allergy Relief
NASHVILLE, TENN. (March 22, 2013) – Springtime is beautiful in Middle Tennessee but if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may be looking to the season with dread not anticipation.
Trees kick off the allergy season in early March with willow, oak, birch and elm tree pollens among the culprits behind itching, watery eyes, and sneezing. Soon after, in April, the grasses join the pollen line-up, with no relief till mid- to late summer.
“There is no break between tree and grass pollen season, so if someone suffers from both, spring can be especially challenging,” says John Fahrenholz, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine and medical director of the Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program (ASAP).
Seasonal allergies cause itchy, runny nose and eyes, sneezing and nasal congestion. For those who also have asthma, spring allergies can trigger coughing, wheezing and breathing difficulty.
“For asthma severity and control, think of the ‘rule of 2s’ – if you are reaching for that rescue inhaler more than twice a week apart from exercise you aren’t under good control and should see your doctor,” Fahrenholz said.
Fahrenholz offers these tips for surviving the spring allergy season:
- Stay indoors and use the air conditioning when pollen counts are high.
- Keep windows closed when traveling in a vehicle, keep vents clean and recirculate the air.
- Pollen counts are highest in the morning so plan outdoor activities with that mind.
- For milder allergy symptoms, an over-the-counter antihistamine may help.
- Newer medications (Allegra, Zyrtec, Claritin or generic forms) tend to be easier to tolerate than older antihistamines (Benadryl or generic forms) that cause drowsiness.
- Try a nasal saline irrigation to ease and prevent symptoms. Use ½ teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm distilled or filtered water. Do not use tap water.
- Be careful about taking over-the-counter decongestants or sprays. Pills can elevate blood pressure or cause other side effects, and nose sprays, while offering some short-term relief, can cause more congestion if you use them too long. Talk to your doctor if you need a decongestant.
If over-the-counter approaches don’t provide relief, don’t suffer in silence; see an allergy specialist. Prescription medications including antihistamine or steroid nasal sprays may provide the needed relief. In some cases, a course of immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be recommended.
Even if your allergies are seasonal, you may wish to consider being tested for other “background” allergies. Effects of the body’s allergic response are additive, meaning indoor allergies to pets or other triggers may make the effects of seasonal allergens that much worse, Fahrenholz said.
One last piece of advice: if your allergies seem worse than usual, it is always possible that it’s a really bad season. But it also could be a chronic sinus infection, which comes on more gradually than an acute infection. See your doctor to rule out infection requiring antibiotics.
For more information or to make an appointment, visit www.VanderbiltAllergy.com
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Your nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs are all connected. Doesn't it make sense that the doctors who treat them are, too? At the Vanderbilt Asthma Sinus Allergy Program (A.S.A.P.), they are.
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