Lowdown On Seasonal Allergies

This article written by Dr. Johnson was originally published in Katy Trail Weekly.

Every day, I see patients that are having trouble with their allergic symptoms. For some individuals, over the counter medications such as antihistamines help but does not give sufficient relief for the comfort of the patient. Others have tried prescription medications which include stronger antihistamine and medications that reduce the inflammatory process, such as montelukast or steroids, with varying results and side effects.

Understanding seasonal allergy triggers. To achieve effective treatment, it is important to understand the cause or triggers of the symptoms you are experiencing. Avoidance or reducing exposure is the first step in treatment.

In Texas, that is almost impossible. There are airborne pollens year-around, differing in spring, summer, fall and winter. Winter brings Mountain Cedar in December, January and February. In spring, pollens are in grasses and trees. Summer has carryovers from spring and then ragweed begins in August thru October. Fall pollen contains different trees from spring tree pollen and weeds.

The most significant weed is ragweed that carries over from late summer. Molds are present year around with levels elevating with wind and damper conditions. Additional allergens that may add to the individual’s allergic load are dust mites and animal dander, such as dog, cat and feathers (birds or pillows).

Reactions for some individuals may be very specific, such as dust mite or ragweed. Others may have more extensive allergies and have symptoms year around.

Reducing your allergic reactions. Blood tests for IgE allergy (Type 1 allergic response) can define the worst offenders. Skin tests also define those reactive substances and may be more sensitive picking up the less reactive but troublesome items.

Once a person knows what specific items are causing them problems, reducing exposure is important to decrease symptoms during that individual’s high pollen season. Staying inside during peak pollen times, exercising indoors and traveling with windows up and air conditioner on recirculate helps reduce exposure.

Many newer cars have cabin filters that help reduce the in-vehicle pollen. If your vehicle has one, be sure to change it on a regular basis. Home air purifiers, especially in the room where sleeping, helps also. This gives the person six to eight hours of cleaner air.

Another simple process to reduce exposure is to use nasal saline to rinse out the pollen in the nasal passage before going to bed and after being outside.

Natural substances may be helpful in reducing symptoms. Vitamin C, taking at least 3 grams a day, is reported to have antihistamine effects. Quercetin also is reported to help.

Steroids either by shot or oral administration generally reduce symptoms quickly. Long term use may have significant side effects and are generally only given by physicians once or twice a year for a short period of time for symptoms not resolving with antihistamines.

Immunotherapy, allergy shots or sublingual drops (called SLIT- sublingual immunotherapy) builds up your body’s tolerance to the specific pollens. This therapy is specifically designed for you from your blood or skin testing results and administered on a frequent basis, usually weekly, over three to five years.

Consulting a physician for additional treatment options. If over the counter medication is not helping and you are miserable, consulting a physician to discuss additional treatment options is important to improve your health in a safe and effective manner.

Dr. Alfred Johnson, D.O. is a physician practicing in Richardson, specializing in internal medicine, environmental medicine and chronic disease. For more information, visit johnsonmedicalassociates.com.