HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Many of us look forward to spring each year; however, for those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies it can be quite the opposite. When allergy symptoms are triggered by the pollen in the air, the condition is referred to as seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as hay fever. Hay fever can affect your quality of life; often leading to sinus infections, disrupting your sleep and affecting your ability to learn at school or perform at work. Common symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis include itching in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat and/or eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose (congestion), runny nose, tearing eyes and dark circles under the eyes.
Fortunately, there are a lot of options in treating allergy symptoms, many of which are available over-the-counter. However, there is often confusion about which form of medication to get to treat the specific symptoms you are experiencing. Antihistamines work by targeting the immune system response that leads to allergy symptoms such as itching, sneezing and runny nose/drainage. Decongestants work by shrinking swollen membranes to alleviate stuffiness and sinus pressure. Several medications contain both antihistamines and decongestants. Nasal sprays can help alleviate congestion and post-nasal drip, while eye drops treat irritation caused by pollen exposure in the eyes.
Long term management may be needed for more severe cases of seasonal allergies such as allergen immunotherapy. Traditionally, this treatment has been given as a shot and administered in a doctor’s office. However, recently the FDA approved a pill form of allergen immunotherapy, so patients can take it at home and avoid the dread of getting a shot. The catch is that patients should begin taking the medication at least two to three months before the start of allergy season for it to be most effective. While it may be too late to begin it this allergy season, talk to your doctor about this option for the fall or next spring.
Dr. Clint Young is a pulmonary medicine specialist at LeBauer Pulmonary and a member of the Cone Health Medical Group. Dr. Young is a 1974 graduate of the University of Virginia Medical Center. He completed his residency at University of South Carolina and his fellowship at University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.