The Pacific Northwest is such a terrific place to live. Each season has its benefits, but I am always excited to get out of the dark, cold days of winter and into the warm spring months.
Springtime also brings allergy season. In the early spring, we get tree pollen, starting with the alders that typically peak in February and March. Then comes summer’s grass season, which lasts about four months beginning in May, and finally fall’s weed season in August and September. Our wet climate is also a perfect environment for mold in the outdoor air, most pronounced in the spring and fall months. So, our allergy season is really allergy seasons!
We can’t avoid exposure to allergens—it’s important that we get outside and enjoy all our region has to offer! Inevitably, you or your children will experience a runny nose, nasal congestion, or itchy red eyes. Generally, allergies can be managed with simple medications and avoidance if your symptoms:
- Are mild and don’t limit attendance at school or work.
- Don’t interfere with your ability to sleep at night.
- Don’t interfere with your daytime activities.
Minimize the effects of pollen exposure
You can reduce your exposure to pollen by wearing a hat and sunglasses when outdoors. Goggles and a pollen mask can also be worn when gardening. Pollen is more prevalent in the morning and on windy days, so avoid being outside during these times, when possible. You will also want to avoid drying your clothes outside during pollen season. To help reduce allergy symptoms, use an antihistamine before exposure to allergens. Make sure to wash your face and rinse your eyes as soon as you begin to experience a reaction.
When coming back inside, remove your shoes and outer clothing. If you are very symptomatic when coming in from outside, you may also want to take a shower and wash your hair. Make sure to close the windows in your home during pollen season, and use air conditioning while traveling in the car.
Some suggested treatments for seasonal allergies
- Saline (salted water) nasal wash
- Over-the-counter oral antihistamines. All work well but some have fewer side effects (loratadine and fexofenadine) or a faster onset of action (cetirizine).
- Intranasal steroids, like fluticasone (Flonase Sensimist) or triamcinolone (Nasacort), are safe and effective for treating persistent nasal congestion and allergic eye symptoms. Use these intermittently or daily through your peak allergy season. Minimize nasal bleeding with proper administration and use of Vaseline to septum before administration. Avoid nasal sprays with scents or alcohol-based preservatives to minimize nasal irritation. Young children can be challenging to administer therapy; try using the spray when asleep.
- Nasal antihistamines and anticholinergics (such as Montelukast) can be prescribed by your doctor if symptoms are poorly controlled with other medications.
If your life is impaired by allergies, it may be time to consider allergy immunotherapy. Visit a board-certified allergy/immunology specialist for an evaluation and appropriate treatment. Today’s allergy immunotherapies include sublingual (under the tongue) or subcutaneous (allergy shots) treatment for long-term management or cure. Both options are effective and safe.
So, enjoy the warmer weather knowing you have options when it comes to minimizing allergy symptoms.