Fighting Allergy: List of commonly prescribed medications for allergies
While it still looks and feels like winter in northern states of the U.S., spring allergy season is already underway in other parts of the nation. And it’s starting earlier each year due to warmer weather patterns, according to a report published in the March 2013 Harvard Health Letter.
"When winter is shorter and less severe, it means there will be pollens and molds present for a longer period of time," says Dr. Stacey Gray, an allergy expert at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Accordingly, people who suffer from allergies need to take charge of fighting their allergy symptoms by arming themselves with antihistamines, nasal sprays, and/or decongestants in order to minimize being exposed to allergens like tree pollen.
The latest issue of Harvard’s health newsletter advises those with allergies to start at home:
• Make sure all air conditioning and heating filters and vents are clean.
• Close windows and consider wearing a mask for outdoor yard work.
• Better yet, avoid going outside when pollen levels are highest.
Dr. Gray also recommends using nasal saline irrigations after working in the yard or being outside for an extended time, especially since certain irritants in the environment – including cigarette smoke and air pollution – can worsen allergy symptoms. If at all possible, avoid such irritants, and take precautions even before allergy season hits. One strategy Dr. Gray suggests is starting a nasal steroid spray a few weeks before spring allergies begin.
What more can you do to arm yourself better so you can breathe easier?
Spring allergy seasons continue to start earlier each year. It started last year in February, and pollen counts continue to rise. Scientists say this rise is due to the effects of climate change, which are making allergy seasons worse. Indeed, research presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in November 2012 suggests that pollen counts are expected to doubly by the year 2040.
"I do think that the allergy seasons seem to be longer,” says Dr. Gray. “When winter is shorter and less severe, it means there will be pollens and molds present for a longer period of time," she added.
What are the offenders?
Grass, weeds, and trees release tiny pollens into the air each spring, summer, and fall. Inhaling these pollens can trigger a reaction of the immune system, known as hay fever. Symptoms vary, but typically include a runny nose, sneezing, itching, and burning or watery eyes.