As winter's ice thaws and spring blooms, seasonal allergies appear. Spring allergies are the ones that take most people by surprise. They come on quickly as the weather warms, and people are returning to outdoor life surrounded by their allergic triggers.
Despite popular perception, allergies are not always benign. Symptoms such as a sneezing, a runny and stuffy nose, and itchy eyes can prevent a good night's sleep, resulting in fatigue and reduced productivity at school and work. These symptoms may also keep you hiding indoors, removing the 'spring' in spring!
The Education Challenge
Many allergy suffers choose to "suffer in silence," either ignoring or not treating their symptoms. Others are too embarrassed to see their doctor for what they think are "just allergies."
Here are a few recommendations on how to manage your seasonal allergies and control your symptoms:
The first step is to realize that uncontrolled allergic symptoms are every bit as important as other medical conditions. They can significantly impact your everyday performance, mood and lifestyle. They should be dealt with quickly to prevent worsening symptoms, and allow a resumption of normal life. It's also important to remember that for those with multiple allergies, symptoms can last for many months. Don't just wait for them to run their course.
The second step is to get educated:
• Awareness -- seasonal allergies appear yearly and at predictable times depending on where you live. Prepare early with proper avoidance and medication where appropriate.
• Discuss your allergies with your family doctor -- if your symptoms are difficult to control, or atypical, ask to see an allergist to clearly identify your triggers and make treatment recommendations. What is assumed to be allergies may in fact be a different condition. Infection or allergies to pets, for example, may be other potential causes.
The third step is to take action. This includes the following:
• Manage your allergies -- knowing your triggers may help with planning your day. For example, outdoor activities may be best for you when pollen counts are lowest.
• Medicate appropriately -- long-acting, non-sedating medications are generally available over the counter, and are often the first "line of defense" for people seeking relief. For some, this may be enough. If you still require symptom relief, intranasal steroids are safe and effective, and are the mainstay of therapy for seasonal allergies. A prescription-strength nasal spray such a Nasacort®, is also available over-the-counter. Others are by prescription from your family doctor.
• See an allergist -- if you do not have a typical response to the usual therapies, ask your family doctor to see an allergist. An allergist will identify your triggers using diagnostics such as skin or blood tests. Once the responsible allergens are identified, other treatments such as allergy shots or sublingual tablets which "desensitize" to the allergen may be discussed. Allergy assessment may also reveal if you have other conditions, such as sinusitis, or asthma, which may be contributing to your symptoms. Relief is available and should be the expectation of all allergy sufferers.
• You're not alone -- realize you are not the only one experiencing spring allergies. Of all the allergies that bring patients to their doctor, it is the seasonal ones that are most common. This is because they come on acutely, are most noticeable, and most problematic for people. Don't suffer in silence!
Spring is nature's way of having a party, make sure you're able to join in!
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