With warmer weather comes heightened pollen counts and allergy season. The experts at Prevention have tips on what you might not know about allergies, and how to keep them in check when everything is in bloom.
- You can develop allergies even as an adult. Allergies happen when your immune system mistakenly identifies a substance, such as pollen, as harmful and then attacks, releasing compounds that can affect your sinuses, eyes, airways, skin and digestive system. You may notice it the first time you have contact with a substance—say, if you moved recently—or you may react only when you’ve been repeatedly exposed to it or if your immune system is weak.
- Some allergy meds are better if you take them before you need them. Antihistamines can suppress occasional allergy symptoms in as little as an hour. But for predictable seasonal allergies, taking the meds before you feel symptoms will dial down your reaction, lessening or even eliminating your symptoms. Make sure to consult with your doctor about daily oral antihistamine or nasal steroids before allergy season hits, because it can take two weeks to reach full effectiveness.
- Focus on your main symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what bothers you most, so you don’t take unneeded medication. You may just need eye drops rather than an oral antihistamine, for example, and you can ease many symptoms by doing your best to keep allergens out of your home. Close windows and change out of pollen-laden clothing as soon as you walk in the door.
- For long-term relief, immunotherapy is the gold standard. Allergy shots make you less allergic over time rather than just suppressing your symptoms for a season. You will likely have to go to the doctor’s office once a week for six months, and then once a month for three to five years. The Food and Drug Administration has also approved four types of sublingual immunotherapy, which involves a tablet that dissolves under your tongue, but each only works for a specific allergen, including ragweed, dust mites and specific northern grasses. Shots, meanwhile, can treat multiple allergies at once.
Remember to talk to your doctor or allergist, who can help determine the best strategy for treating your symptoms. There is relief out there for you!