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  • Writer's pictureHannah Valliere

Overcoming Seasonal Allergies

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, about eight percent of Americans suffer from seasonal allergies.


Seasonal allergies occur when your immune system reacts to an irritant, or allergen, in the air. It tries to protect your body from the perceived threat by releasing histamine into the bloodstream causing mucous membranes in your nose, eyes and throat to become inflamed and itchy.


“Seasonal allergies are fairly common in our area,” says Jesse Mitchell, FNP-C, a provider at Tioga Medical Center. “Symptoms typically flare up in spring, summer and early fall when trees and weeds bloom and pollen counts are higher.”


Symptoms of seasonal allergies include:



Despite their commonality, Mitchell points out that many seasonal allergies go undiagnosed. “Many people think their seasonal allergies are something they can just power through, or they aren’t aware that the symptoms they are experiencing are due to allergies.”


The problem with powering through, however, according to Mitchell, is that untreated chronic inflammation can have severe long-term effects such as tissue damage and scarring, reduced function of body systems, accelerated aging, and increased risk of chronic diseases.

 

Prevention


While there is no way to prevent or cure seasonal allergies, there are things you can do to minimize your exposure.


  • Pay Attention to daily pollen and mold spore levels, and avoid outdoor activities when counts are high.

  • Begin taking medications before the start of the allergy season.

  • Shut the windows and doors in your home, office and car to seal out pollen.

  • Wear a hat when outdoors or wash your hair before bed to keep pollen off your pillow and away from your face.

  • Change your clothes after spending time outdoors.

  • Avoid mowing the grass or raking moldy leaves if those are your triggers or wear a mask when doing so.


Treatment


Avoidance is best medicine, but when you can’t avoid your allergens completely, there are treatment options that can provide relief.


Medication

Most often, an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Zyrtec or prescription antihistamine such as Singulair will help suppress the body’s immune response, providing relief from symptoms. Decongestants can be used to relieve congestion and over-the-counter cough medications are commonly recommended as well.


Allergy Immunotherapy


Allergy immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a form of long-term treatment that reduces symptoms and provides lasting relief by decreasing your body’s sensitivity to allergens.


“Allergy shots induce an allergic response, and over time, your body basically gets tired of fighting, so it starts to ignore it [the allergen],” says Mitchell. “We refer patients to allergists for this type of treatment.”


Both children and adults can receive allergy immunotherapy, although it is not typically recommended for children under age five.


Steroid Shot


Long-lasting corticosteroid injections are used to reduce inflammation in the body. They are typically a last resort for seasonal allergy relief, however, prescribed only when other treatments options don’t work, and symptoms interfere with everyday activities.


“A steroid shot, while effective, is still a steroid, and steroids come with their own side effects and long-term risks,” says Mitchell. “If the benefits to receiving the steroid shot outweigh the risks in your situation, then it’s something we can try.”


 

Stop Suffering from Seasonal Allergies


The first step to allergy relief is visiting your primary care provider. “You don’t need to tough it out,” says Mitchell. “Make an appointment, and we’ll figure out a treatment plan that will provide you with the relief you’re seeking.”


To make an appointment with Mitchell or another Tioga Medical Center provider, call 701-664-3368.

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