Spring is in the air, and so is pollen! If you are part of the 55% of the U.S. population who suffers from allergies, you are probably looking for some relief from the sniffles and sneezing. Here are several ways that you can treat allergies and the order in which you should try them:
Step 1: Find out what you are allergic to
A simple allergy skin test by your primary care physician can quickly determine what is causing your allergies. An allergy skin test exposes you to a certain allergen and your doctor will evaluate your body’s reaction to it. There are three types of skin tests:
- Scratch test – a drop of extract from an allergen is placed on the skin, and the skin is then pricked or scratched to allow the extract to enter the body
- Intradermal test – a small amount of the allergen is injected just under the skin
- Patch test – the allergen is put on a patch which is then placed on the skin
After the test is performed, your doctor will check for a reaction such as hives, redness, or swelling, which will determine which allergen(s) you are allergic to.
Step 2: Avoid triggers for your allergies
Once you know which allergens are causing you misery, avoid them! One of the biggest spring allergy culprits is pollen, so even though it’s tempting to feel that nice spring breeze, keep your windows shut as much as possible if pollen is your problem. Shower immediately after spending time outdoors, and wash your clothes and bedding frequently. If you know the type of pollen that you are allergic to, check a pollen counter and try to stay indoors on a day when those levels are high.
Step 3: Try over-the-counter and alternative treatments for your allergies
While avoiding your triggers is the easiest way to reduce symptoms, sometimes this is simply not possible. Between school, work, sports, children and everything else that may be on your schedule, staying inside is not always an option. When you know you’ll be spending a lot of time outside, fight off allergies before the symptoms even begin with any of these over-the-counter medicines:
- Non-drowsy antihistamine, such as Claritin
- Nasal spray
- Oral decongestant
- Antihistamine eye drops
You can also try some alternatives to over-the-counter medicines such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal treatments. You should always talk to your doctor before starting any treatment to determine what your best option is.
If avoiding triggers and over-the-counter medicine is not getting the job done, it might be time to see an allergist and talk about prescription-strength medication. You should still try to manage your allergy symptoms on your own, but prescriptions such as antihistamines, nasal steroids, and Leukotriene modifiers can provide additional relief. If all else fails, allergy shots can be used in addition to prescription medicine. As always, it is important to talk with your doctor to determine your best course of treatment.Find a primary care physician near you to discuss your allergies.