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Allergies. By Our September Student Pharmacist, Rebecca Miller.

hay fever

There are many kinds of allergies (food, pollen, pet, mold, dust, insect sting/bite, latex, drug, the list goes on…) but today’s discussion will focus on seasonal allergies caused primarily by pollen.

What are allergies?

Allergies are what happen when your body sees something normal from your environment and thinks that it is an invader. Imagine what happens when you see a garden hose slinking through tall grass… You scream ‘SNAKE’ and start to hit it with a shovel and end up with lots of missing chunks of your yard… Maybe that is just me after three cups of coffee. But that is what is happening inside your body when you have allergies–your immune cells see something that vaguely looks like something bad and then they attack. But during the attack, they also cause collateral damage and that damage is the symptoms of seasonal allergies

What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?

The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies affect the nose and eye, can be mild or severe, and are often confused with a cold:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose, eyes, or ears
  • Puffy or watery eyes
  • Cough
  • Fatigue

Can seasonal allergies happen all year?

A person can have environmental allergies that affect them all year, though they usually have different causes. Seasonal allergies are most commonly caused by pollen, while year-round allergies (at least in Ohio) are more likely to be caused by pets, dust, or mold. A person could also suffer from both seasonal and year-round allergies.

avoid pollen

How do you treat seasonal allergies?

Over-the-counter antihistamines are usually very effective at treating seasonal and year-round allergies. There are also nasal sprays and eye drops available. Talking with your pharmacist can help you decide which option is best for you.

How do you prevent seasonal allergies?

The best way to prevent seasonal allergies is to figure out what you are allergic to and then avoid it. This is much easier for some people than others. The person who is allergic to grass pollen will find it much harder, for instance, to avoid the cause of their allergy than someone who is allergic to marigold pollen. Even so, there are some things that everyone can do:

  • Use air filters in your house which meet HEPA standards and change those filters regularly to reduce the amount of allergens in the air in your house.
  • Stay indoors on windy days when allergens are more likely to be picked up into the air by the wind.
  • Don’t hang laundry outside because allergens can stick to them and then to you.
  • Avoid doing yardwork, but if you must be outside, make sure to shower and change your clothes as soon as you are done to remove any allergens that might be on you or your clothing.

When should you talk to the doctor?

Seasonal allergies are often easy to take care of on your own, but there are some instances where it is important get the doctor involved. If you are experiencing any of the following, then you should talk with your doctor:

  • If your symptoms are affecting your ability to complete normal daily activities
  • If over-the-counter medicines are not able to control your symptoms
  • If you suffer from asthma or another chronic respiratory illness
  • If you have significant pressure/pain in your sinuses or ears

pollen cartoon

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