As I look out my office window, there are trees in bloom and flowers freshly planted everywhere. Allergy season is here! If you are sneezing, rubbing your eyes or have a runny nose or nasal congestion, you are not alone. Here are some easy tips to alleviate these symptoms so you can enjoy spring:
- Reduce your exposure. Minimize your exposure to allergens by washing clothes after being outside and showering to remove pollen from skin and hair.
- Filter the air in your home. Although it is tempting to air out the house, this just brings the outdoors in. Keep windows and doors closed when pollen counts are high. Use the air conditioner in your house and car to filter the air.
- Try sinus rinses. Using a NeilMed sinus rinse or Neti pot with distilled, sterile water (with non-iodized salt added) to cleanse your nasal passages. By flushing your sinuses with saline, you are physically removing the mucus and allergens that are causing your symptoms.
If prevention isn’t enough, medications can keep symptoms under control. Oral over-the-counter antihistamines (loratadine, certirizine, Zyrtec, etc) are a good place to start. They are less sedating than older antihistamines (chlorpheniramine or Benadryl). Oral decongestants, such as Sudafed, are ok for short-term use. There are also decongestant nasal sprays (Afrin, etc) that should also be limited to short-term use. However, these medications should be avoided if you have high blood pressure.
If you using all these methods and are still having symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor. A nasal steroid spray (like Flonase or Nasonex). These once daily sprays can significantly reduce the swelling in your nasal passages causing congestion. There are also prescription eye drops that can alleviate itchy, watery eyes.
About Dr. Susan Szulc
Susan V. Szulc, MD, is a board-certified internist with Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dr. Szulc earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., where she also completed a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Szulc is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and American Medical Women’s Association. Dr. Szulc’s special interests include palliative care and hypertension.