Seasonal Allergies: Nothing to Sneeze At

May 20, 2013

When nature starts to bloom, so can your hay fever. The telltale signs — watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing and itching, among others — mean your immune system is overreacting to an otherwise harmless substance such as grass or tree pollen.

“Up to 20 percent of the population suffers from seasonal allergies,” says Haejin Kim, M.D., a board-certified allergist at the Henry Ford Health Center – Brownstown. “Fortunately, while this condition is common, it is treatable.”

Learning your allergy triggers

Q: How can I pinpoint the cause of my allergies?

 A: You may already have an idea about what triggers your allergies — things like the spring pollen season or dust. But an allergist can determine the underlying cause through a thorough evaluation, including a family history and skin testing.

Q: How can I minimize my exposure to allergens?

A: Once you know what you are allergic to, you can also take steps to avoid these allergens. When pollen counts are high, you can close your windows and run your air conditioning. You can also minimize your exposure to dust by keeping your home clean and uncluttered, and replacing carpeting with cleanable hard surfaces.

Treating your allergies

Q: What medication should I take?

A: Antihistamines are the medications most commonly taken for hay fever. As the name implies, they block histamines, the substances your body releases that cause allergies. Older medications work faster than newer, time-released antihistamines, but are more likely to cause drowsiness. Always talk with your health care provider to find out which medication is best for you.

Q: What about nasal sprays?

A: Newer, prescription-only sprays are safer than many over-the-counter decongestant sprays that can be habit-forming if used improperly. Intranasal corticosteroids are the most effective medications for controlling symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Q: Do allergy shots help?

A: Allergy shots stimulate your immune system to produce specific antibodies, helping your body to build up a resistance to the allergen over time. For many, this treatment can reduce the severity of symptoms and help you to regain quality of life.