Warm weather has arrived, and summer is in full swing, which also means many Canadians are suffering from seasonal allergies. An estimated 25 per cent of Canadians are affected by allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and that number continues to rise.
As a pharmacist, I'm asked all the time about the best way to survive allergy season during the hot summer months, including how to pick the right medication, or what to watch out for that can make allergy symptoms worse.
I'm a firm believer that pharmacists can play a key role as a first-line of defence against allergies, and that Canadians shouldn't have to sniffle in silence. That's why I'm sharing answers to some of the most common questions I've received about allergy season so far this year.
Why do your allergies change as you become an adult?
Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system. Depending on the type of allergic reaction and what's causing it, a person's response to the allergen could change as they get older.
If someone can tolerate an allergen better than when they were younger, it could mean that it wasn't a true allergy, or that their body has become desensitized to it over time.
Our reactions to allergens can also be impacted by changes to the environment we're living in, and the physiological changes we encounter as we age.
Are there certain foods that can make allergies worse?
Believe it or not, research shows that alcohol can cause or worsen the common symptoms of asthma and hay fever, like sneezing, itching, headaches and coughing. This is because bacteria and yeast in alcohol produce histamines that cause allergy symptoms to flare up. If you're battling allergies, my best advice is to try not to overdo it on the vino!
When is the best time to take allergy medication?
It is generally recommended to take allergy medications first thing in the morning. You should always consult your pharmacist regarding the type of allergy medication you're taking, as some may include side effects such as drowsiness.
If your allergy symptoms are disrupting your daily life and tend to be more common during a specific time of the year, you could consider taking allergy medication daily to help control your symptoms.
What is the best daytime allergy medicine for kids?
When dealing with symptoms like a runny nose, congestion and itchiness, look for medications that won't cause drowsiness or negatively interact with any medications your child may also be taking. If your child is feeling congested and needs relief from their symptoms at night, using an over-the-counter sinus rinse may also help.
Is long-term use of my allergy medication considered to be harmful?
In most cases, the long-term use of allergy medication is not harmful. However, this depends on the person, and may change based on existing medical conditions or other medications someone may be taking.
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It's important to know that pharmacists can be a helpful resource when selecting the right allergy treatment for you. They can assess your symptoms, and recommend over-the-counter options that will best meet your needs.
If your allergy symptoms are more severe, pharmacists in British Columbia and Ontariocan work with your doctor to help you access the right treatment. Pharmacists in all other provinces can prescribe for minor ailments, so if appropriate, they can write you a prescription for your allergies. They can also advise on how allergy treatments might interact with other medications or how your diet might impact how the medications work.
Don't tackle your seasonal allergies alone. Speak with your local pharmacist today.
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