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Have Allergies? These 4 Things Can Help Ease Your Symptoms

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Laura Herbener, CRNP, is a certified registered nurse practitioner with LVPG Family Medicine–Mountain Top. 

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I know what seasonal allergies are like – I suffer from them myself. Allergies spike in the spring and, in most areas of the country, settle down until spiking again in the fall. But in our area, allergies often keep going all summer and continue straight into autumn.

Ragweed is one of the biggest culprits. It doesn’t have to grow in your immediate vicinity to be a problem because it can travel long distances through the air. So even if local sources of pollen aren’t bothering you, a brisk wind could bring ragweed from a distance.

Allergy symptoms overlap with those of other respiratory conditions such as the common cold, but several features distinguish allergies from an infection. These include:

  • A runny nose as with a cold, but fluid is thin and clear.
  • Eyes water and may be itchy, along with your nose.
  • You might have a dry cough, meaning it doesn’t bring anything up.
  • Dark circles may form under your eyes.
  • There’s no fever with allergies.

Dealing with the “sneezing season”

Fortunately, you can minimize seasonal allergy symptoms in a variety of ways. Here are four general approaches that many people find helpful.

  1. Avoidance – Follow daily allergy forecasts on TV or online, and try to stay indoors on days when the pollen index is high. Keep windows closed and run air conditioning (A/C). Just be sure the A/C filter is clean – it prevents outdoor allergens from entering the house. If grass is an issue, consider hiring a lawn service to reduce exposure from mowing.

  2. Rinses – A saline solution sprayed into the nose helps keep nasal passages moist so they’re not as irritated when exposed to allergens. Consider using a neti pot to rinse sinuses of mucus that can trap allergens and prolong exposure.

  3. Antihistamines – Non-sedating over-the-counter medications such as Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec control symptoms without making you drowsy. They take seven days to reach full effectiveness, so don’t give up if they don’t help immediately.

  4. Nasal sprays – Nasal decongestant and corticosteroid sprays (such as Afrin, Nasacort or Flonase) treat congestion that can develop in irritated nasal passages. Be sure to follow the packaging instructions or the directions from your provider when using these medications. The nasal decongestants (Afrin) should not be taken for more than three days straight, as they can cause a rebound effect that makes congestion even worse.

An allergist also can help with personalized injections, but these steps could be all you need.