While springtime means warmer weather and beautiful blooms, it also means allergy season. With the trees and flowers popping up all around us, pollen becomes a major player when it comes to allergies.
Types of Pollen
At the beginning of the season, tree pollen is most common, and as the season moves to mid-spring, grass pollen comes into play. Eventually, as we approach summer, we see weed-related allergies added to the mix.
Signs of Pollen Season
Common indications that pollen season has arrived include not only the trees and flowers in full bloom, but also the yellow-colored residue we see on our cars and other places. That is actually pollen itself and a clear sign that the stuffy nose you have may not be a cold-it could be allergies.
A Cold vs. Allergies
Many people have frequent colds and struggle distinguishing between a cold and allergies. However, fevers, chills and discolored nasal mucus signal a cold-not allergies.
Nasal itching, ear itching, throat itching, clear nasal discharge and sneezing are common indicators of allergies. Symptoms can overlap in some cases, but these are most often seen with allergies rather than a cold. Common sinus infections are also an indication of an individual with allergies.
There are over-the-counter medications available for allergies. Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec and Xyzal are common medications you can purchase at a drug store. These are 24-hour, non-sedating medications called second-generation antihistamines. They are safe to take daily for relieving chronic allergy symptoms. In addition, it is typically safe to switch between antihistamines if one isn’t working for you.
On the contrary, other medications like Benadryl and Diphenhydramine, known as first-generation sedating antihistamines, work short-term for about six hours and aren’t recommended for chronic allergy symptoms.
If nasal congestion or drip continue to be a problem for you, consider adding a nasal steroid (brand names like Flonase, Fluticasone and Nasacort) along with your antihistamine. Some of these are available over-the-counter. Doctors recommend using one spray per nostril while symptoms persist.
Other nasal sprays, such as Afrin, aren’t intended for allergy relief and are recommended to relieve cold symptoms only. Ask your allergist or primary care physician which is right for you.
Not all patients find relief from antihistamines or nasal sprays. If this is the case for you, you may want to explore immunotherapy. There are two kinds of allergy immunotherapy: allergy shots, or subcutaneous immunotherapy, and sublingual immunotherapy, such as tabs or drops taken orally. Although allergy shots are typically more effective, sublingual tabs are a good alternative for those who want to avoid shots. The long-term goal of immunotherapy is to alter your immune system in order to relieve your allergy symptoms for good. Doctors evaluate results on a case-by-case basis and results can’t be guaranteed.
Because we live in the Sunshine State, many pollen sources can bloom year-round along with other allergy culprits. Some wide-spread factors causing allergies all year include dust mites, mold and pet dander.
If you have any questions about your allergies, visit an allergist who can test you to find out exactly what you are allergic to and work with you to find relief.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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