Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR), can be triggered by a variety of pollens. Here in Georgia, tree pollen can be detected as early as late February and will persist until May; grass pollen usually appears in April and can persist until mid-July.
The first steps in managing SAR are avoidance strategies. Theoretically, if one can avoid the allergens triggering symptoms, then no other treatments are needed. Avoidance strategies include:
• Close all windows in your home and car and turn on the A/C.
• Change your HVAC filters before pollen season starts.
• Cover your air conditioning vents with filters.
• Avoid being outdoors, particularly on high pollen-count days. You can check pollen counts online at www.allergyofatlanta.com under the “pollen count” tab.
• If you absolutely have to perform outdoor activities, try and do them in the late afternoon or evening, as pollen counts decrease after sunset.
• Shower and change your clothing after being outdoors.
• Turn on your car’s A/C re-circulate setting.
• Clean pets that have been outside before they come inside
Start using prescription topical nasal corticosteroids, such as Flonase, Rhinocort or Nasonex, 2 weeks prior to the beginning of pollen season to maximize anti-inflammatory effects. If you have allergy symptoms, take either prescribed or over-the-counter medications, including antihistamines taken by mouth.
Other effective but little-known products include ipratropium bromide topical nasal solution, an under-prescribed medication which is quite effective for runny-nose in either allergic or infectious rhinitis, and cromolyn sodium nasal spray, which is available over the counter and should be used before allergen exposure to prevent rhinitis symptoms.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that if you are sneezing, it is not necessarily an allergic reaction. If your symptoms continue with treatment, consult with your physician to determine if your sniffles are more than pollen irritation.
Did You Know?
Weather can influence SAR symptoms. Symptoms are often minimal on days that are rainy, cloudy or windless. Dry, warm and windy weather increases pollen and mold distribution and, thus, symptoms increase. One exception is spring thunderstorms—recent studies have confirmed they may actually stir up grass pollen and worsen symptoms.
Seasonal allergies also can be triggered by mold exposure. Molds are fungi but without stems, roots or leaves, and their spores can float in the air like pollen. In Georgia, outdoor mold spores begin to appear after the spring and reach their peak in mid-summer, persisting until winter.
Rinse and Repeat
One under-rated, over-the-counter treatment which is safe, effective and economical is nasal saline lavage, also known as nasal irrigation. Nasal lavage consists of washing out the nasal cavity to flush out excess mucus and debris while moistening the mucus membranes of the nose and sinuses.
The technique usually involves using a pot, squeeze bottle or syringe to pour or squirt the water into a nostril. The water then either runs out of the other nostril or goes through the sinuses to the back of the throat from where it may be spat out. It’s also economical because the saline solution can be made at home with salt, baking soda and distilled water.