The pollen counts are climbing, and you are taking your daily dose of allergy medicine to make it through the day. But how long do you have to take your over-the-counter allergy medicine? What should you do if the medication no longer seems to be working?
Dealing with Seasonal Allergies
Spring is beautiful, but with the explosion of blooms and buds and grass comes a tidal wave of sneezing, congestion, and itchy, watery eyes for many Americans. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), 20 million U.S. adults and about 6 million children suffer from allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever.
The first step is to limit your exposure to pollen. For instance, on dry and windy days, try to stay indoors as much as possible. When you do go outside for any length of time, try to remove your clothes and wash pollen from your skin and hair when you come back indoors. Finally, if you can’t delegate outdoor chores that will stir up allergens, like mowing or weeding, be sure to wear a mask that can filter out pollen to limit your exposure.
The next line of defense is seasonal allergy medications that you can take to help you manage your symptoms. Options include:
- Nasal steroids which can be sprayed into your nose to relieve congestion, a runny or itchy nose, sneezing, and other symptoms.
- Antihistamines, which are pills that block your body’s production of histamine, a chemical in your body responsible for itching, sneezing, and runny noses.
- Decongestants, which are pills, liquids, or nasal sprays that unclog a stuffy nose.
When to Start and Stop Allergy Medications
Most of us start to sneeze or feel our eyes getting itchy before we begin a daily dose of allergy medicine. But some health care providers suggest that the better method is to begin allergy medications before the symptoms strike. By pretreating for pollen, you may be able to better control your allergies. This keeps you from needing stronger medicine or developing bigger problems like allergic sinusitis.
Because pollen seasons are relatively predictable here in the United States, this proactive approach isn’t that hard to do. You can discover pollen levels in your area by visiting pollen.com and entering your zip code. Once you know when pollen season starts for you, you can begin taking your medication a few weeks in advance. This prevents your body from releasing histamine in response to exposure to any allergens in the air and prevents the inflammation that leads to most of your allergy symptoms. Likewise, as the pollen counts decline, you can decide when it is time to decrease or stop taking your allergy medicines.
Finally, if it feels like your allergy medications are no longer helping, this could be due to changes in the environment, new allergies, or even age and stress. If you are sure you are taking the medicine correctly and aren’t getting relief, it may be time to contact an allergy specialist.
If you are seeking treatment for asthma or allergies, contact Columbia Allergy Clinics with convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho, or Washington. We take a patient-focused approach that views every person as an individual with unique challenges and goals.