This month we will discuss seasonal allergies. Spring will be here soon but I see it all year long in Dallas. Dallas is the second worst city for allergies in the country (Tulsa is number one). According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 26 million Americans endure chronic seasonal allergies, while the number of people with milder symptoms may be as high as 40 million. One study puts the annual costs of “hay fever,” as it’s commonly called, at $2.4 million for medications and another $1.1 billion in doctors’ bills.
Seasonal allergies cause itchy skin, clear watery discharge from the nose, watery and bloodshot eyes and sneezing. Symptoms and their seasonal appearance usually suggest the diagnosis and skin tests can help identify the allergy trigger. Most of the time viewing the evening news and watching the allergy report can give you an idea of what you may be allergic too. If you know what you are allergic too, start taking your medication early when the specific count is high.
Antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroid nasal sprays and other prescription medications help relieve symptoms. There are some excellent over-the-counter antihistamines. Claritin, Zyrtec and any of their generic forms are basically great nonsedating benadryl medication. Benadryl (diphenhyramine) is great at night because it can also make you sleepy. This is the main ingredient in all those PM medications. If these don’t work then talk to your doctor about prescription strength medication. One of the most affective treatments are still allergy shots. Thy can offer long lasting relief.
Things to do that are simple is to reduce your exposure to the allergy triggers. Avoid going outside on bad or windy days during your peak allergy season. Keep your windows closed if possible. Don’t cut your own lawn or bushes if you have trouble with those allergies. Take a shower or remove your clothes after you have been outside. Don’t hang your clothes outside to dry. Pets will also bring in the allergens on their coat.
As always, please discuss any problems with your personal doctor. Stay healthy.
James Chanez, M.D.
Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas