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Allergies dampen springtime enjoyment

Managing triggers and symptoms


I think that we can all agree that we are happy to have the warmer, spring weather back.  Upon welcoming the warmer weather, we are also welcoming the pesky seasonal allergens back.  Allergens are substances that cause allergic reactions.  This time of year some common allergens we encounter here include ragweed, pollen, cotton, sagebrush, cocklebur, trees and grass.  Mold is another common allergen that becomes an issue this time of year due to the fact it can grow quickly in the heat. 

Your immune system works to protect you from bacteria and viruses.  If you have allergies, your immune system will work too hard and attack substances, such as pollen or cotton that are generally harmless.  When you come into contact with an allergen, your body creates a chemical known as Immunoglobulen E, or IgE, which releases histamine into your blood stream.  Too much histamine will cause allergy symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing as your body is trying to expel the allergen.  While seasonal allergies are a nuisance, they are not a life threatening emergency such as an anaphylaxis response.  In the case of an anaphylaxis reaction, the body becomes hypersensitive to the allergen, releases too many chemicals and causes a systemic response.  The chemicals cause your body to go into shock, your blood pressure suddenly drops and airways narrow, which causes blocked breathing.  Reversing anaphylaxis requires an injection of epinephrine.

Management of seasonal allergies includes knowing what your triggers are and trying to limit exposure to them.  Keeping your windows and doors shut during allergy season can help limit your exposure.  After working or playing outside, take a shower and change your clothing.  If you have known seasonal allergies, it is recommended by allergists that you take medications up to two weeks before allergy symptoms are expected to begin.  There are over the counter medications such as Claritin and Zyrtec that help block histamines to cut back/eliminate the allergy symptoms.  The most common reason why people do not stick with taking their antihistamine medications is because they can cause some drowsiness and dry mouth.  Alternative options for those sensitive to oral antihistamines are nasal sprays such as Flonase, which do not cause the drowsiness.

If allergy symptoms persist and over the counter medications do not help control the symptoms it may be recommended by your primary care provider to have a referral to an allergy and immunology specialist to discuss the possibility of immunotherapy (allergy shots).  These shots expose you over time to gradual increments of your allergens to decrease symptoms.  The allergist will mix up a unique-to-you vial of serum, which includes your allergens.  The shots are given once to twice weekly over four to eight months until you reach a maintenance dose.  Once you reach the maintenance dose, you then come in once a month.  Although the allergist mixes the serum, we are set up to give the shots at Sweet Medical Center.  If you suffer from allergies, contact your primary care provider today for an appointment to discuss treatment options.


Ashley Nordboe, registered nurse at Sweet Medical Center


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