Bless You! Salud! Gesundheit! These are the common courtesy phrases our friends, family, and even complete strangers extend to us after a whopping sneeze. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you are probably hearing these polite phrases so many times throughout the day that they have become grating to your ears. I bet you can’t even muster more than a grunt in thanks to these chipper well-wishers who aren’t currently sporting a Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer sized schnozz like you are. But don’t suffer in congested silence! There are straightforward treatments for seasonal allergies that will have you signing a peace treaty with springtime, and maybe even getting to smell the roses for once.
Seasonal allergies are most commonly a problem in late winter or spring when the usual culprits are blooming, but symptoms can occur throughout the year depending on individual triggers. Common allergens include certain types of pollen, grasses, ragweed, and mold spores. Misery loves company and so it goes with seasonal allergies; genetics can make it more likely that close family members all suffer from this annoying condition. As that old saying goes, the family that sneezes together, stays together… because they can’t go outside.
But why is my nose rebelling against the outdoors you may be wondering? It all comes down to your immune system. Our bodies are calibrated to fight off foreign microscopic invaders, and most of the time the response is appropriate to the foreign threat. People with seasonal allergies just happen to a have a particularly vigilant immune response when it comes to their individual allergic triggers. The average immune system may shrug its shoulders when presented with ragweed, but if ragweed is your trigger, your immune system reacts as if Genghis Khan is at the city gates! “GET THIS RAGWEED OUT OF HERE!”, it commands, and special immune cells in your body quickly release a compound called histamine. Histamine causes the classic symptoms of runny nose and watery itchy eyes, which as annoying as they are, have a purpose in that the increased fluid production is meant to flush out any allergens.
There are very effective over the counter treatment options for seasonal allergies that work by regulating this overactive immune system. Antihistamines are a class of medications that block histamine from having an effect on your body. There are many types of medications that belong to this drug family including Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec. Most are available as pills you can take when symptoms occur or are likely to occur. Another treatment option is steroid nasal sprays such as Flonase. These sprays work by blunting your entire immune response. After consistent use, your nervous nelly immune system will no longer be able to cause a panic when confronted with your usual allergic triggers.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies talk with your doctor about what treatment options would be best for you based on how severe your symptoms are, what medications you may have tried in the past, and what your other medical conditions are. Get treated this Spring and then you won’t have to be afraid to open your window and let in some fresh air. It’s time to put the Kleenex down!
Dr. Diaz is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in
Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.