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As the weather begins to warm in the springtime, the faint sound of sniffling can be heard anywhere you go. Coughs and sneezes, too. As you catch the eye of the person sneezing in line next to you, they offer half-hearted reassurance: “Don’t worry, it’s just allergies!”
But is it allergies, a cold or something worse? If you don’t know what to look for, this can be difficult to discern.
“Rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is the body’s allergic reaction to irritants like pollen, dust mites and pet dander,” said Michael Hong, D.O., Physician at Inspira Medial Group Primary Care Upper Deerfield. “Which irritant triggers this reaction varies from person to person, and can change over time for a given individual.”
For over 19 million Americans, seasonal allergies put a damper on their day-to-day lives by causing wide-ranging symptoms that often hinder their general wellbeing. Luckily, there are a variety of over-the-counter medicines, as well as prescription options, that can be used to reduce these unwanted symptoms of allergies.
The symptoms of hay fever vary greatly in both how they affect an individual, as well as how severely they affect someone.
“For many people who have hay fever, the only symptoms that they may have are mild ones, such as a runny or stuffy nose, or itchy eyes,” said Dr. Hong. “Far fewer people have severe symptoms as a result of their allergies, which can include painful headaches, wheezing and shortness of breath.”
Other common allergy symptoms include watery eyes, congestion within the sinuses and postnasal drainage.
If you have mild symptoms, they could also be a result of a common cold. Your primary care provider will be able to offer you guidance to determine whether or not you have seasonal allergies, and how to best treat and prevent them.
Preventing seasonal allergies can be difficult, as many of the irritants that cause symptoms are found outside. And unless you plan on not leaving your house for an entire season, you’ll most likely come into contact with these irritants.
“There are some steps that you can take inside of your home, however, to minimize your exposure to allergic irritants,” said Hong. “Keeping your windows and doors shut will keep pollen outside, and wearing a mask when you leave the house on particularly windy days can also help reduce irritant exposure.”
Most people’s allergies can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Antihistamines, such as cetirizine, fexofenadine and loratadine are sold in most pharmacies in both pill and liquid forms and work by reducing the level of histamines that your body produces. Histamines are chemicals that your immune system releases when exposed to an allergen that causes symptoms to occur.
The other common over-the-counter treatment option is nasal sprays; `azelastine and olopatadine are the two most common sprays. These sprays may have a bitter taste, but are generally effective in reducing nasal congestion and pressure.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.
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