“When warmer weather arrives, it brings a cycle of plant pollen and molds that quickly permeate the air and spread for miles,” said Anju Peters, MD, an allergist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and associate professor in medicine-allergy-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This pollen can vary depending on region, but the most common are trees, grass and ragweed.”
“Seasonal allergies are affecting more Americans every year with some studies suggesting that climate change could be to blame,” said Peters. “The pollen season is becoming longer and potentially more severe, making it increasingly important to properly treat allergies so they do not interfere with your quality of life.”
While there is no way to evade all allergies, Peters suggests the following steps for identifying triggers and avoiding severe symptoms:
- Protect Your Home – Make sure windows and doors are shut completely when pollen counts peak. Dust and vacuum frequently.
- Be Mindful of Your Clothing – Remove clothing that has been worn outside when you get home. Try to wash all your clothes and bedding frequently.
- Visit Your Doctor – Talking -with your doctor can help determine what type of pollen triggers your allergies. During the visit, the doctor may perform an allergy skin test or check your blood for potential allergens.
- Make a Calendar – Once you are able to specifically identify the culprit, create a calendar of your most severe allergy weeks.
“If you overuse a decongestant nasal spray it can actually lose effectiveness and lead to rebound congestion,” says Peters. “Oral decongestants can also bring other health concerns, so make sure to speak with your physician about the appropriate use of over-the-counter decongestant products.”
Cleaning the nasal passages with saline is one of the best ways to help relieve sinus pressure associated with allergies. Peters recommends using a neti pot or a sinus rinse bottle to help flush sinuses, but reminds users to use distilled or boiled water and to clean and sterilize the bottle regularly.
For those with severe allergies, over-the-counter medications or at home treatments may not be enough. For these patients, Peters recommends discussing prescription nasal sprays or allergy shots with a physician.
“Allergies will always be a fact of life, but if you take control of your allergies they can be manageable,” said Peters, “Work with your physician to find a treatment plan that works best for you and allows you to enjoy the warm weather without allergy symptoms.”
For more information or to make an appointment, visit www.nmh.org or call 312-926-0779.