At this time of year many people are looking forward to the longer daylight hours of spring and the new growth of plants, grasses, and trees. For others spring signals the start of their allergy season. Itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion (stuffy nose) are just some of the symptoms experienced by allergy sufferers. Other symptoms may include: post-nasal drip, headache, fatigue, and dark circles under the eyes. Avoiding exposure to allergens is the best therapy. The Weather Network’s pollen forecast indicates pollen concentrations in your area. Limiting your time outdoors when pollen counts are high, keeping your windows closed, and using air conditioning if available will limit your exposure to common allergens. If you must cut the lawn, wear a pollen or dust mask and long sleeved clothing. Showering after outdoor activities and changing your clothes will also remove pollen from hair and skin. Similarly, drying clothing outdoors can allow pollen and dust to accumulate on them and make allergies worse. Dust mites and animal allergens are other common sources of allergies. Over the counter products are available without a prescription and can treat most mild to moderate allergy symptoms. Saline nasal rinses and lubricating eye drops can be beneficial. Antihistamines are useful in helping to relieve most symptoms, especially itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. However, antihistamines by themselves have a limited benefit in treating nasal congestion. A decongestant is used to reduce nasal congestion. For convenience, and when required, there are products combining decongestants with an antihistamine. Allergy medication is available in various forms including tablets, liquids, eye drops and nasal sprays. Certain eye drops and nasal sprays should not be used for more than 3 days as a worsening of symptoms may occur with prolonged use of these products. For more severe symptoms a prescription may be required. Prescription therapy may include intra-nasal corticosteroid sprays, anti-allergy eye drops, or immunotherapy (allergy shots). Not all products are appropriate for everyone. Be aware that some may cause undesirable side effects, interact with other medications you are taking, or aggravate certain medical conditions. Speak with your Pure Pharmacy pharmacist to help you choose the safest and most effective medication to reduce your allergy symptoms.
Arusia Bulman, B.Sc (Pharm) Pharmacist