Find the Right Solution this Allergy Season
Ah, spring! It’s the Goldilocks of seasons—not too hot, not too cold, plus it’s full of sunshine, birdsong and colorful flowers. But spring also marks the beginning of misery that will last through fall for those who suffer from seasonal allergies. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. You probably know someone with seasonal allergies or even suffer from them yourself.
The signs are all too common. People with pollen allergies such as hay fever and ragweed can experience sneezing; an itchy or runny nose; itchy, red or watery eyes; and an itchy mouth or throat. Allergic reactions to insect bites include swelling around the bite; hives and/or itching all over your body; and shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing.
In the South, especially balmy Florida, allergies may last most of the year but intensify in spring. There’s no need to despair because relief is available. With allergies, the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is especially true. Getting a two-week head start on the season may help you feel better all season long.
One effective tool in the battle against seasonal allergies is to improve your home’s air quality. An easy step is to use a high-efficiency air filter on your AC and heating unit. Ask for one with a MERV scale rating of 11 or 12, and be sure to change it out following the manufacturer’s recommendation. Keep windows closed to keep pollen out, and change clothes after coming in from outside to avoid spreading any pollen that may have stuck to your clothing. If you have pets, it’s good to bathe them regularly to minimize their dander as well as any allergens they carry in from outside. Also, be sure to dust and vacuum often.
If you have mild to moderate allergies, you may find relief at the drugstore without a prescription. Here are some options for you.
Antihistamines block a chemical called histamine, which your body releases to fight allergens. Histamine makes your eyes and nose itch—antihistamines make the itch go away. They can also prevent the symptoms from occurring in the first place. Antihistamines are available as pills or nasal spray. Improvements in newer antihistamines have significantly reduced drowsiness. If you experience a normal or local reaction to an insect bite, antihistamines work well along with washing the bite area and applying an antiseptic. In cases of severe reaction, seek medical help immediately.
Decongestants relieve stuffy noses and usually work faster as a nasal spray than in pill form. However, if you overuse a decongestant, you may experience a rebound effect, which makes your symptoms worse. Keep use to a three-day maximum to avoid a rebound.
Nasal sprays also can help the fight against allergies. They commonly come in two forms—saline and steroid. Doctors often recommend you begin with a saline spray. The saline will help clear out mucus and other irritants in your nose that could prevent a steroid spray from being effective.
You can make your own saline spray by mixing 2 or 3 teaspoons of kosher salt and a teaspoon of baking soda in a quart of distilled or sterile water, or cool water that has been boiled. To spray it, you can use a bulb syringe or plastic squirt bottle. You can also use a Neti pot, which looks like a miniature tea pot.
Nasal steroid sprays are manufactured corticosteroids that are highly effective at reducing allergy symptoms and often a doctor’s first recommendation. They are sprayed directly into the nose and produce few if any, serious side effects. On rare occasion, they can cause irritation, headaches or a nose bleed.
Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking over-the-counter allergy medication. This is especially true if you have high blood pressure. Decongestants can work against some prescriptions and actually raise your blood pressure. A health professional can guide you to the right solution.
If these solutions don’t work, your doctor can help you with allergy tests and shots. If you see a Value Choice Provider, such as a Sanitas Medical Center or Diagnostic Clinic Medical Group, you may be able to get these services for as little as $0. For more Value Choice Providers, visit Florida Blue’s Find a Doctor & More page. Log in or click the “browsing” section, then select your plan, and enter your ZIP. From the drop-down box under “Programs,” choose “Value Choice Providers” and click the search button.
There’s no need to be lost in allergy season. Once you find the solution that is just right, you will feel better and actually enjoy spring.