Spring is in full bloom in Colorado, and that means some of the most beautiful weather of the year is on the way. That also means that Allergy Season is in full bloom as well. The recent rains and warm weather have put all the trees, flowers and grass back into bloom and we’re expecting a tougher than usual allergy season this year. Here’s some helpful survival tips for allergy season.
Replace the furnace filter.
Furnace filters should be replaced once every season (about every 3 months) especially as it’s starting to get warm again and the AC will start running again. Replacing a clogged, dirty air filter will help extend the life of a furnace and air conditioner as well as reduce the pollen and allergens circulating in a home.
Run a humidifier.
Running a humidifier in the bedroom at night can be a lot of help for bad allergies. The extra moisture in the air clings to small particles of pollen and dust and weighs them down, sticking them to surfaces so they can’t get into the nose and eyes and cause irritation. Also, the extra moisture will help stop the nose and throat from getting dry at night. Once the inside of the nose gets dry, the skin can crack, and any dust or pollen can get into the deep layers of the skin where it will cause more inflammation and irritation.
Use a nasal saline rinse.
Nasal saline rinses like a Neti-pot are helpful tools for treating allergies. Rinsing the nose when your allergies are acting up will physically remove the irritation pollen and dust and stop it from causing problems. This can be a great trick to stop a bad flare before it starts. After a big exposure to dust or pollen (mowing the lawn, working in the garden or hiking) head inside and use a nasal rinse. Flush the dust and pollen out gently before it starts to cause inflammation. Also, the nasal rinses are a great way to keep the skin inside the nose moist and soft and prevent cracking and bleeding. Don’t like the saline rinses? Saline sprays are a good way to moisten a dry nose too.
Use over the counter medications correctly.
There are two types of over the counter allergy medications available; Antihistamines and Topical glucocorticoids (Steroidal Anti-inflammatories). Let’s see how to use each most effectively.
Antihistamines: There are two classes of anti-histamines, 1st Generation and 2nd Generation antihistamines. The most common 1st generation antihistamine is diphenhydramine (Benadryl). This medication is the fastest acting but can cause a lot of drowsiness. It can even cause some confusion and dizziness in older people. However, it’s a great medication to have on hand in case of a sudden allergy attack, just be careful after it’s taken. Diphenhydramine typically lasts 6-8 hours, then needs to be repeated for continued relief.
2nd Generation antihistamines were designed to be longer lasting and cause less drowsiness than 1st generation medications. Loratadine (Claritin), Cetirizine (Zyrtec), and Fexofenadine (Allegra) are all 2nd generation medications. These typically cross into the brain less than diphenhydramine and cause less sedation and drowsiness. Of the 2nd generation antihistamines, cetirizine is the most potent, and my recommendation for patients with severe allergies.
Other antihistamines: Did you know that a lot of the medication that are sold for stomach acid relief are anti-histamines? Histamine not only controls allergic responses but also stomach acid production. Ranitidine (Zantac) can be a great, non-drowsy addition to an allergy toolkit. My patients have had a lot of success with combining cetirizine and ranitidine (Zyrtec and Zantac) for hard to treat allergies.
Topical glucocorticoids: Fluticasone (Flonase) is now available over the counter without a prescription. This medication is a powerful topical anti-inflammatory that blocks the allergy pathway even before histamine release. Regular use of fluticasone spray is the most effective treatment we have for nasal allergies. Though it’s powerful, it doesn’t work fast. Typically, it takes 4-7 for the medication to be at its maximum effect. A lot of people end up using the fluticasone for 1-2 days and not getting a benefit. Nasal sprays like fluticasone are best for people with persistent allergy symptoms, who’s allergy season lasts more than a few weeks. Flonase is also still expensive. Thankfully most insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare, still cover the cost of the medication with a prescription.
Create an allergy tool kit:
I suggest making a small allergy tool kit to keep in the car, in a sports bag or at work in case allergies hit hard away from home. Here’s what I suggest is inside:
•Tissue (for runny noses and watery eyes)
•Hydrocortisone Ointment 1% (for rashes and itch relief from bug bites)
•Nasal saline spray (for moisturizing a dry nose or washing out a big allergy load)
•Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) (for sudden, severe allergy symptoms)
•2nd Generation Anti-histamine (Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, etc) (for non-drowsy treatment)
•1-2 bottles of water (for swallowing pills and clearing dust/pollen from your throat)
•Soft dust mask (for bad days when there’s a lot of dust and pollen in the air.
•*Epi-Pen (for a history of severe, life-threatening allergic reactions)
•*Albuterol Inhaler (for a history of asthma)
*see a healthcare provider for these.
Come see us.
For a sudden severe allergy attack, sometimes people need a little more help than they can get over the counter. Short courses of more powerful, prescription anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful to shut down severe attacks. For a history of throat swelling or anaphylaxis (allergic shock), keeping an epinephrine pen (Epi-Pen) at home, work or school is a must. For a history of allergic asthma, having more than one albuterol rescue inhaler is recommended time of year. It’s a good idea to keep one in a purse or glove box, and another at home or at work for emergencies.
Dr. NOW Urgent Care can help build an effective allergy treatment program for anyone. Also we can help fill up a potentially life saving allergy tool kit. Walk in any time or Check-in ahead online for a shorter wait time.