This is a synopsis of an article first published in Harvard Health Publications.
“Pretreating allergies will lead to better control of symptoms, and maybe prevent symptoms from showing up.” ~Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, ENT specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
When allergens (pollen) are airborne and make contact with your nostrils, the body can overreact. Cells in the lining of the nose mistake the innocuous pollen for destructive intruders. This causes a domino effect — releasing chemicals (histamine and tryptase) that recruit more immune system cells to fight back.
Those pollen-fighting chemicals trigger watery eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and a sore throat, symptoms of hay fever (allergic rhinitis).
“Once the reaction starts, it’s hard to stop. More inflammatory cells are recruited to the nose and sinuses, symptoms become more severe, and it’s difficult to treat them,” explains Dr. Sedaghat. To avoid allergic responses, he advises to defend the system before the attack. This will help lessen the symptoms and keep flare-ups at bay.
There are only certain medications that should be used in advance: corticosteroid nasal sprays (Nasonex or Flonase). These medications take a few weeks to a month to become effective. Another option is to take antihistamines (such as Benadryl, Allegra and Claritin). These over the counter options help counter the effects of histamine. Although, Dr. Sedaghat warns certain antihistamines (Benadryl) are not advised for older adults as they can “cause drowsiness, leading to falls.”
Safer options include prescription antihistamine sprays, such as Astelin and Patanase, which don’t cause severe drowsiness and help prevent sneezing and a runny nose. To help with watery eyes, over the counter Zaditor or Patanol (requires a prescription) are recommended.
Decongestant pills, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), help reduce nasal congestion, but are contraindicated for people with high blood pressure or heart problems. Decongestant sprays, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) are effective short-term remedies, but should not be used for longer than a few days as they can increase congestion.
Allergy injections can help reduce allergic symptoms, but require a commitment of three to five years to become fully effective. This is a “last resort” for those who don’t respond to other allergy medications.
It is advised to discuss allergy treatment options with your doctor prior to allergy season. In conjunction with medical treatment, take environmental precautions: change your air filters and clean your vents consistently. Avoid going outside when pollen levels are most severe, and close your windows to keep the pollen out.
Read the full article here.
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