Spring is here, and with it….allergies! Allergic rhinitis, often called allergies or hay fever, occurs when your immune system overreacts to particles in the air that you breathe. Once you breathe in the particles your immune system attacks them, causing symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, or itchy and watery eyes.
Allergies can pop up later in life, and people with allergies usually continue to have symptoms for many years. You may have symptoms often during the year, or just at certain times (people with allergies in our neck of the woods actually look forward to the first freeze of the year). You also may get other problems such as sinus infections and ear infections as a result of your allergies. Over time, your allergies may begin to affect you less, and your symptoms may not be as severe as they had been.
In most cases, when you have allergic rhinitis:
- You sneeze A LOT, especially after you wake up in the morning
- The dreaded runny nose and postnasal drip! The drainage from a runny nose caused by allergies is usually clear and thin, it often leads to a sore throat as well
- Itchy and watery eyes drive you crazy!
- Your ears, nose, and throat are itchy
You probably know that pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds cause allergic rhinitis. Many people have allergies to dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, and mold as well. Things in the workplace, such as cereal grain, wood dust, chemicals, or lab animals, can also cause allergic rhinitis. If you are allergic to pollens, you may have symptoms only at certain times of the year. If you are allergic to dust mites and indoor allergens, you may have symptoms all the time.
To find out if you have allergies, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you. Knowing what symptoms you have, when you get them, and what makes them worse or better can help your doctor know whether you have allergies or another problem.
If you have severe symptoms, you may need to have allergy tests to find out what you are allergic to.
- Your doctor may do a skin test. In this test your doctor puts a small amount of an allergen into your skin to see if it causes an allergic reaction.
- Your doctor may order lab tests. These tests look for substances that put you at risk for allergies.
Bad news, there is no cure for allergic rhinitis. One of the best things you can do is to avoid the things that cause your allergies. You may need to clean your house often to get rid of dust, animal dander, or molds. Or you may need to stay indoors when pollen counts are high. Good news, there are many medications to help treat symptoms of allergies, unless you have another health problem, such as asthma, you may take over-the-counter medicines to treat your symptoms at home. If you do have another problem, talk to your doctor first. Others who also should talk to their doctor before starting self-treatment include older adults, children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Thanks for reading and enjoy the nice weather!
Pharmacy Clinical Program Mgr