Dr. Monica Gupta discusses how to prepare for and manage your allergies this season and what therapies are available.
Springtime is fickle, and for many people, serious allergy symptoms can pop up at any moment. Preparing in advance before your allergies hit is the key to quelling inflammation and managing your symptoms. Allergy and immunology specialist Dr. Monica Gupta has some tips for tackling your allergies for this spring season.
Preparing in Advance
Spring allergens are most abundant from March through May, and Dr. Gupta recommends starting your daily allergy treatment regimen as early as mid-February, as soon as there’s no longer frost on the leaves.
“Starting medication daily about two weeks before you typically develop symptoms will help manage your symptoms before they start. And daily treatment is necessary to keep symptoms and inflammation at bay, rather than taking allergy medication as needed,” says Dr. Gupta.
Deciding on the Allergy Therapies That Work for You
Over-the-counter allergy medications affect different people’s symptoms in different ways. “Look for an antihistamine that is non-sedating and long-acting. Some people will find that one antihistamine works particularly well for them while another does not work at all,” says Dr. Gupta. Some of the most common over-the-counter antihistamines for allergies are cetirizine, desloratadine and fexofenadine.
Over-the-counter steroid nasal sprays, such as fluticasone and mometasone, reduce nasal inflammation that leads to congestion and sneezing. “If you suffer from allergies, it’s recommended to use a steroid nasal spray regularly during your allergic season to increase its effectiveness in preventing symptoms,” says Dr. Gupta. If you don’t find relief with over-the-counter sprays, talk to your allergist about an antihistamine spray such as azelastine or an antileukotriene spray such as montelukast.
HEPA filters can also improve indoor air quality and have positive effects on certain allergy symptoms. “The air inside your home can be polluted with allergens including pollen, pet dander or mold. These allergens can heavily contribute to symptoms for people experiencing indoor or outdoor allergies,” says Dr. Gupta.
When to Look Into Immunotherapy
If you find that you are unable to control your allergy symptoms with standard over-the-counter therapies, Dr. Gupta recommends being evaluated by your allergist to identify the causes of your symptoms. An allergist will take a full history of your home and work environment and do a skin test for both indoor and outdoor allergies to determine what specifically is causing your symptoms.
Your allergist can recommend an individualized treatment plan and help you decide if allergen immunotherapy, or allergy shots, are right for you. “Allergy shots decrease sensitivity to allergens and can be very effective in improving people’s symptoms and quality of life, even after treatment is stopped,” says Dr. Gupta.
Is It Severe Allergies, a Cold or a Sinus Infection?
Typical allergy symptoms include coughing, nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes, a runny nose and a sore throat. “Someone with chronic, under-treated allergies can be predisposed to bacterial or viral infections, which can lead to sinus infections,” says Dr. Gupta. If your symptoms develop into fevers or worsening discolored nasal discharge for more than ten days, you may be experiencing a sinus infection.