Spring is finally here, and the weather is getting warmer. Unfortunately, that also means that our allergies are back!
Although allergy symptoms may plague some people year round, spring and fall are usually the worst seasons for allergy suffers who live in the northeast. In April and May, the trees begin to bloom, creating problems for those who are allergic to various kinds of trees. In June, symptoms from tree allergies begin to subside, but grass allergies develop. July gives most allergy sufferers some reprieve, but those allergic to ragweed will have difficulty throughout the fall – from August until about October.
Common allergy symptoms
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Scratchy or sore throat
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Cough for postnasal drip
- Throat clearing
Dr. Mark D’Agostino, Middlesex Health’s* Chief of Otolaryngology, says it can be difficult to differentiate between allergies and a common cold. Many of the symptoms are similar.
What are the differences?
Dr. D’Agostino says allergies can cause a rash, while fevers and body aches are not signs of an allergy. Allergy symptoms also tend to happen all at once, while common cold symptoms often occur one at a time—sneezing followed by a runny nose and then congestion.
Allergy symptoms will continue as long as there is exposure to the allergen. Colds typically last seven to 10 days.
What can you do?
If you believe you suffer from allergies, your first step is to visit an otolaryngologist. Your doctor will help determine your best course of action.
There are several medications – both over the counter and prescription – that can help allergy sufferers.
First-generation oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are often associated with undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness and sedation, excessive dryness and urinary problems in some men with prostate problems. When taking second-generation oral antihistamines, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), levocetirizine (Xyzal) and loratadine (Claritin), you will likely experience less side effects.
In addition, nasal steroid sprays can help reduce allergy symptoms and complement oral antihistamines. Dr. D’Agostino recommends that you begin using the sprays a few weeks before allergy season starts. They do take several weeks to be effective. Examples of nasal steroid sprays include fluticasone (Flonase), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ) and Mometasone (Nasonex), and some of them are available over the counter.
Other allergy remedies include antihistamine nasal sprays; leukotriene modifiers, such as montelukast (Singulair); and allergy eye drops. Rinsing or flushing your nose with nasal saline throughout the day may also help.
For those who suffer from allergies throughout the year, or for those who cannot control their symptoms with medication, there is the option of immunotherapy – allergy shots.
*Middlesex Hospital is now Middlesex Health. This article has been updated from its original version to reflect the health system's new name and brand.
Winter is here—and so is the flu. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to protect yourself from this contagious respiratory illness.
Middlesex Health has always treated GERD, but a new comprehensive program allows gastroenterologists and surgeons to collaborate more easily. This means patients benefit from more efficient, coordinated care.