The start of Spring is often dreaded by seasonal allergy sufferers dealing with the onset of bothersome symptoms. Allergy expert Dr. Michael Marcus, Director of Allergy & Immunology at Maimonides, shares strategies for coping with symptoms.
Weather changes have gradually been increasing the pollen count since 2000 – a trend expected to continue for the next thirty years.
“Pollen is a common trigger of seasonal allergies,” says Dr. Marcus. "To minimize the impact of your allergies, reduce your exposure to excess pollen.”
In urban areas, the pollen count is highest between 10am and 3pm – therefore, Dr. Marcus recommends trying to delay outdoor activities until the evening when pollen has subsided.
“To reduce your symptoms, you can minimize the amount of pollen entering your home," says Dr. Marcus. “Take your shoes off outside, change clothes when you get home, shower at night and keep windows closed. Animal fur can also trap pollen, so bathing pets often is advised during the Spring.”
When preventative measures aren’t enough to lessen symptoms, there are over-the-counter allergy medications to try:
- “First generation antihistamines” include medications that, while effective, often cause drowsiness. Brand names include Benadryl and Chlortrimeton.
- Newer antihistamines typically do not cause drowsiness, and thus do not interfere with daytime activities. Medications in this category include loratadine (brand name Claritin) and fexofenadine (brand name Allegra)
- The third category of antihistamines includes cetirizine (brand name Zyrtec), which causes less drowsiness than “first-generation antihistamines,” but has mild sedative properties.
“Everyone responds to medication in different ways, so it is very important to see how your body reacts the first time you take any medicine,” Dr. Marcus notes. “If one medication doesn’t work, it’s worth trying another, even within the same category. Read labels carefully to ensure the medications are truly comparable.
If it takes a daily dose of medication to control your symptoms, or if you need two or more medications to do the job, you should consult an allergy specialist. A physician can help you decide whether prescription medications, or a different treatment regimen, may be a more effective solution.
Allergy medications work best when used preventatively. Dr. Marcus advises taking allergy medication in the morning, instead of waiting until later in the day when you’re experiencing symptoms. Once symptoms present themselves, over-the-counter allergy medications are far less effective.
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