Beating Spring Allergies

March 12, 2018


You can’t wait to see your first robin, your first tulip and your first baseball game. The only downside to spring for many of us is the sniffling, congestion and itchy eyes that inevitably accompany it. And that means interrupted sleep, lost productivity and an inevitable sinus infection.

Play it smart this year. CHI Health Otolaryngologist Adam Pleas, MD, arms you with the facts.

1. Your allergies are not necessarily my allergies.

Everyone is different, according to Dr. Pleas, an ear, nose and throat physician. Your symptoms depend on the specific allergens you’re allergic to. They’re usually pollen, or a very fine particle that comes from trees, grass, and weeds.

"The main allergen in the spring is tree pollen, followed by grass pollen in late spring and summer, and weed pollen in the fall," he said. Mold also can be an issue in the autumn, particularly with increased moisture.

2. Be proactive. You’ll save yourself some misery.

If you experience spring allergies routinely year to year, see your ear, nose and throat doctor ahead of time.

"As with most medical conditions, it is better to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to allergic symptoms," Dr. Pleas said. You could lessen the severity of your symptoms, or avoid them altogether.

"Seeing your ENT or allergist and starting therapy in late winter -- prior to tree pollen exposure -- will optimize your nasal and sinus health in preparation for pollen exposure." Early intervention can help you "avoid significant exacerbation of symptoms, along with complications such as acute sinusitis and asthma attacks," he added.

3. Stock up now for what you’ll no doubt need later.

That includes over-the-counter items like sinus irrigations, nasal steroid sprays and oral antihistamines.

How sinus irrigations, nasal steroid sprays and oral antihistamines work

  • Sinus irrigations help clear allergens from the nasal passage and sinuses following exposure along with clearing mucous.
  • Nasal steroids help relieve sneezing, nasal congestion, drainage, and itchiness.
  • Antihistamines reduce sneezing, itchiness, and nasal drainage but are not as effective for congestion unless combined with an oral decongestant. 

4. Don’t overlook some of the easiest fixes.

Minimize pollen exposure by avoiding outdoor activities during days that have high pollen counts, as well as days that are dry and windy. They can worsen spring allergies. To find out the pollen count in your area, visit pollen.com.

"Keep your home and car windows closed and use air conditioning when possible," Dr. Pleas said. "To control dust mites, mold, and pet dander, keep household humidity below 50 percent and wash bed linens in hot water."

Consider removing carpet and pets from the most often used living areas, especially the bedroom. "And use hypoallergenic coverings for pillows, mattresses, and box springs."

You’ve been looking forward to spring – now go enjoy it!