Health Tips brought to you by U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group. Our experienced medical experts provide information here that we hope will broaden your healthcare knowledge.
Today’s topic is a common problem that people seek medical attention for at an Urgent Care center: How to deal with allergy season. Please continue reading to learn more from Dr. Shiu-Yueh Baxter, a Dallas-area physician who has been practicing for 25 years.
1. How do I know what I’m allergic to?
If you need to know what you are specifically allergic to, there are skin and blood tests that can help. If you don’t want to visit an allergist, you can look at the pollen reports and keep track of when you feel symptoms.
The most common respiratory allergy symptoms are runny nose (usually clear), and itchy/red eyes. Some pollens have such high counts that you can almost count on them to trigger your allergy symptoms. Ragweed, grasses and tree pollens are quite abundant in the Dallas area, where I’m from, and these are common allergens elsewhere, too.
Severe allergies can result in swelling of the airways, and in severe cases, even death. If you experience any swelling of the mouth, tongue, or trouble breathing you should seek help immediately.
2. How can I manage my allergies using over-the-counter medication?
Most respiratory allergies and hay fever can be managed with a combination of avoidance and over-the-counter medications. Loratadine, cetirizine, and fexofenadine are the three over-the-counter antihistamine/allergy medications that people can take without getting too sleepy or drowsy. If you take them before you go outside, or as soon as you think you’ve been exposed to a trigger, you may be able to avoid significant suffering.
After you have been exposed to allergens, occasional use of a decongestant such as phenylephrine can help you breathe through your nose if it’s stuffy. Washing your nose with a saline nasal spray may also help.
3. Besides medication, what can I do to manage my allergies?
Avoidance is the best tactic for allergy management. If the pollen report indicates high levels, or the air quality index is poor, consider spending more time indoors. If you have to go outdoors, try to avoid becoming a magnet for pollen – cover your head to avoid pollen landing on your head and hair, and wash your hands to avoid inadvertently transferring pollen from your hands to your eyes or nose.
Shower prior to going to bed to avoid transferring pollen from your skin to your bed. Consider wearing a dust/particulate mask to mow the lawn if you are sensitive to grass.
4. I love the outdoors. How can I enjoy the warm weather with my allergies?
Having allergies doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the outdoors – it means you might have to plan ahead. Take an antihistamine before you go outside, and wash after you come back inside. Consider taking eye or nose wash if you think something might get into your eyes or nose that you are allergic to. If these measures don’t work, go see your doctor. You might be a candidate for desensitization allergy treatment.
5. If I have allergies, will my kids have them too?
Allergies commonly run in families. It’s a combination of genetics and exposures. People who live together are exposed to the same potential triggers. You can’t always choose your family, but you can certainly choose to take charge of your allergies!
Dr. Shiu-Yueh Baxter is a Center Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks in Dallas (Carrollton), Texas.