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Easing the sneezing
How to survive pollen season

Are allergy shots right for you?

Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, can desensitize you to specific allergens and reduce or eliminate the need for medications. An allergist injects small amounts of allergens (the substances to which you react) once or twice a week for three to six months and then monthly for three to five years. You may be a candidate for allergy shots if:

  • medication doesn’t ease your allergy symptoms
  • you aren’t able to take allergy medications without side effects
  • your allergies trigger asthma
  • your symptoms are severe and cause your quality of life to suffer
  • you face a lengthy allergy season
  • avoiding allergens isn’t possible

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or take beta-blockers, since allergy shots can cause serious complications.

Hay fever signs and symptoms

Your risk of developing allergies is 48 percent if one parent has an allergic condition, but 70 percent if both parents have allergies. Some hay fever symptoms are more obvious than others:

  • a runny or stuffy nose
  • red, swollen, itchy or watery eyes
  • repeated and prolonged sneezing
  • an itchy throat or roof of the mouth
  • itchy ears
  • allergic shiners (swollen, bluish skin under the eyes)
  • postnasal drip and cough
  • sleeplessness, fatigue and irritability
  • facial pressure and pain

Many poems have been written about the beauty of springtime, but it’s a good bet the poets weren’t allergy sufferers. Pollen released by trees, grasses or weeds can trigger annoying and unpleasant symptoms, making life a challenge until allergy season passes.

Short of living in a bubble or moving to a different part of the country, you can’t avoid pollen—but you don’t have to suffer. Follow these precautions to avoid getting sidelined from allergies:

  • Watch the pollen count. Pollen counts are usually higher in the morning and on warm, dry, breezy days, and they’re at their lowest when it’s chilly and wet. Check online or tune in to your local radio or TV weather report for your area’s pollen count so you can plan your day. If you enjoy walking, you may want to walk in the evening when it’s more comfortable. And if the pollen count is high, put off gardening or mowing the grass until levels are lower. Use a dust mask if outdoor activity is unavoidable.
  • Turn on the air. Shut the windows and use air conditioning at home and in the car. Consider buying an air-purifying device for your bedroom to help you sleep more soundly.
  • Try over-the-counter (OTC) medications. OTC antihistamines can relieve itching and sneezing but some may cause drowsiness. OTC decongestants reduce nasal congestion and dry up excess mucus but may cause jitteriness or sleeplessness. Read product labels for side effects.
  • Consider prescription options. If OTC drugs don’t help, talk to your doctor about prescription drugs. Some medications are available by prescription only; others are different formulations of OTC drugs. Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs like cortico-steroids or bronchodilators if you begin to suffer asthma symptoms. If you’ve suffered from repeated hay fever attacks in the past, your doctor can help you avoid developing a more serious problem such as chronic sinusitis or nasal polyps.

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