Coping with Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal Allergies? 3 Ways to Find Relief

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

If you feel like allergy season was bad this summer, you’re not wrong. The coughing, sneezing, runny noses and itchy eyes are at all-time highs. Experts believe climate change is causing longer and more severe allergy seasons. As the seasons change, you may find some relief, or a whole new round of symptoms may flare up, depending on what allergens you’re sensitive to. Plus, with indoor allergies like dust, dander and mold, many people suffer from allergies year-round.

The good news: You don’t have to suffer in silence, explains Rana Misiak, M.D., an allergist and immunologist at Henry Ford Health System. There are a number of things you can do to quell allergy symptoms.

Getting Symptoms Under Control

The keys to managing – and alleviating – allergy symptoms depend on your environmental triggers. People who are allergic to pollen, for example, may employ different management strategies than those with dander allergies. But there are some standardized guidelines everyone can follow, according to Dr. Misiak.

The top three allergy control strategies:

  1. Avoidance: Once you know what you’re allergic to, do your best to avoid it. Allergic to pollen? Run the air conditioning instead of opening windows, shower before bed to wash pollen off your skin and keep shoes at the front door to avoid tracking pollen indoors. Start wheezing around dust? Purchase allergy-proof mattresses and pillows, launder your sheets weekly and keep the humidity level low (dust mites – and mold – thrive in moist environments).
  1. Medication: Allergy sufferers may benefit from both over-the-counter and prescription medications. And allergy medication can be tailored to your specific symptoms. So, if you’re experiencing itchy or watery eyes, you might be able to use eye drops to get relief. Runny nose? A nose spray may help. And oral allergy medications can help alleviate myriad allergy-related woes.
  1. Allergy shots: Allergy shots work through desensitization: They expose your immune system to small amounts of an allergen to help build your tolerance to it. More than one trigger? Doctors can put multiple allergens together in one injectable shot. They administer the injections over time (once a week for six to seven months and then once a month for three to five years). The goal is to change the way your immune system responds to allergens.

Allergy Do’s and Don’ts

While recommendations for allergy management depend on the allergen, the following do’s and don’ts can help nearly every allergy sufferer breathe a little easier:

DO:

  • Wash bedding and sheets in hot water and change them at least once a week.
  • Keep humidity levels low.
  • Keep windows closed.
  • Flush out pollens with a nasal rinse or neti pot.

DON’T:

  • Load up on honey. Many people tout honey – which contains local pollens – as a way to expose your system to allergens and build up a tolerance. Unfortunately, only a small amount of pollen in honey comes from wind-pollinated plants (the kind that circulate in the air and cause allergy symptoms).
  • Wait to get help. Even if you have mild, intermittent symptoms that don’t interfere with your daily life, you may benefit from seeing an allergist.

“Allergy symptoms can interfere with your sleep and how you function during the day,” says Dr. Misiak. “Knowing what you’re allergic to — and what you can do to minimize your exposure to the culprits — can dramatically improve your quality of life.”

To find a doctor or allergist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Rana Misiak specializes in caring for patients with seasonal or food-related allergies and ashthma. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Dearborn and Novi.