Q: Many people struggle with seasonal allergies, but they aren’t exactly sure what they are. Can you tell us what seasonal allergies are and what causes them?
Seasonal allergies — also known as “hay fever” or allergic rhinitis — are the body’s overreaction to natural, normally harmless elements commonly present during the spring and fall. These elements — known as allergens — including pollen from trees, flowers, grass and weeds like ragweed — cause the body’s immune system to react and release chemicals such as histamine. When this happens, the body works to get rid of those allergens which then triggers a variety of symptoms.
Q: What are the most common seasonal allergy symptoms?
Sneezing, or a runny or stuffy nose is very common. Other usual symptoms include itchy, watery or red eyes; postnasal drip, sore throat and skin irritation. Seasonal allergies could also trigger an asthma attack for people with asthma.
Q: What are some commonly used over-the-counter options for seasonal allergies?
It all depends on the symptoms, but there are a number of options to help with seasonal allergies. Antihistamines work by blocking histamine, which is a chemical that makes your eyes itchy and watery and your nose run during an allergic reaction. For nasal inflammation, steroid nasal sprays can help to decrease nasal swelling and mucus production. And for stuffy noses, short-term use of nasal decongestants can reduce nasal and sinus swelling and pain.
Q: What should patients do if they’re unsure about which medication to take?
Your doctor or your pharmacist are your best resources. They can tell you which options may work best for you and your symptoms. They can also provide further information about the risks and benefits of available treatments. If your symptoms appear to be severe, please be sure to reach out to your doctor.
Q: Do you have any last bits of advice regarding seasonal allergies?
The last bit of advice I have to best manage allergy symptoms is to try to be proactive and avoid your seasonal allergy triggers. Some easy tips include monitoring pollen counts so you can avoid the highest levels of the day, starting your allergy medication before the allergy season begins, showering after you’ve been outdoors, and keeping your home and car windows shut throughout the allergy season.
It's important to speak with your pharmacist or doctor if you have allergies, especially when you have a specialty condition. They can help provide more information on seasonal allergy medications that may work best for you.
"I became a pharmacist because of my desire to help the community as well as my family. I wanted a career that would allow me to be a healthcare resource for those in need. And I realized at an early age the local pharmacist was this beacon of knowledge."