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Seasonal Allergies. By Our June Pharmacy Student, Nick Trego.

It’s warm weather again in Ohio and you know what that means: ALLERGY SEASON!

Plants, that had been dormant over the winter, are once again blooming and releasing allergens into the air. These allergens find their way into our bodies and provoke our immune systems to attack foreign particles that are not necessarily harmful, but our bodies perceive them as being so.

Seasonal allergies typically occur in the spring and fall when the seasons are changing and plant life is most active. The blooming of plants in the spring and the shedding of plant material in the fall releases a high number of allergens into the air and increases the likelihood of people experiencing allergy symptoms. Pollen, grass, ragweed and mold are common substances that cause seasonal allergies.

Some ways to avoid exposure to seasonal allergens are to:

1. Stay inside on dry or windy days.

2. Avoid lawn mowing, weed pulling, and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.

3. Remove clothes that were worn outside.

4. Take a shower after being outside to remove allergens from skin.

5. Do not hang laundry outside to dry.

6. Wear a dust mask if you must do outdoor chores.

Many newspapers and television news stations report the pollen and allergen levels on a daily basis, so this is a good way to determine if going outside will aggravate allergies.  Allergy Information:  Allergy Information

There are numerous over-the-counter medications available to ease the burden of seasonal allergies. Avoiding exposure to the allergen is always a first line recommendation, but for some people staying inside all day is not a viable option. Antihistamine medications such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), chlorpheniramine, Allegra (fexofenadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Claritin (loratadine) can help to combat these seasonal allergies. Benadryl and chlorpheniramine can cause drowsiness, so these may not be the best option for day time allergy relief. Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin all work very similarly and will not cause drowsiness. However, it is recommended to switch between these medications if one has been used for a long period of time and seems to be losing its effect on allergy relief.

All of these medications are available behind the pharmacy counter in combination with pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is a medication that helps to relieve the stuffy nose and congestion that is commonly associated with seasonal allergies. This medication can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure–therefore, anyone with high blood pressure or heart problems should consult their doctor before using pseudoephedrine containing products. How to choose the right medication for me?

Nasal saline rinses can also be helpful with allergy and congestion relief, but remember to always use distilled water with saline nasal rinses, as tap water can contain harmful substances that may cause extra complications. These nasal rinses help to lubricate the nasal passages and clear any mucus and allergens from the nasal canals. Nasal sprays are available to decrease congestion, but their use is not recommended beyond three days. These medications cause the blood vessels in the nose to constrict and this provides temporary congestion relief. However, these nasal sprays only act for a very short period of time and as they wear off, the blood vessels open back up and increased congestion occurs.  For this reason, the use of decongestant nasal sprays is not commonly recommended.  Rebound Congestion

One other product that can help make seasonal allergies more bearable is the antihistamine eye drop. Often times, seasonal allergies cause itchy and reddening of the eyes.  The active ingredients in antihistamine eye drops include naphazoline hydrochloride (Naphcon A) and ketotifen fumarate (Zaditor). These medications are available over the counter for allergy symptoms of the eyes.

If any symptoms of seasonal allergies become too much to handle or affect normal daily life to a point that is unacceptable, a physician or allergist should be consulted. There are many prescription medications and treatments that can help relieve allergy symptoms and improve quality of life in many patients.

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