Tips on Minimizing Seasonal Allergies

The return of warmer weather brings blooming flowers, fresh grass, and sunshine, which means itchy eyes, sneezing and wheezing for seasonal allergy sufferers. As respiratory problems for an estimated 50 million people worsen, Meijer pharmacy experts are sharing tips to ease reactions to allergens and help everyone breathe a little easier.

“Whether it’s pollen from flowers and trees or environmental factors like mold and dust affecting allergy sufferers, the important thing is to minimize or treat the symptoms before they begin to escalate,” said Karen Mankowski, Vice President of Pharmacy Operations for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer. “Too often we wait until the symptoms hit to start thinking about seasonal allergies.”

Mankowski said it’s vital to make sure any allergies are diagnosed by a medical professional to better understand the cause before treating symptoms. Symptoms often include sneezing, wheezing, coughing, nasal congestion, itchy, watery eyes, itchy throat, or a combination. Once diagnosed, there are several options to consider to reduce the effects. Meijer pharmacists share information about these options:

•Antihistamines: Can be taken by mouth or as a nasal spray, relieving sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes. They also reduce runny nose and, to a lesser extent, nasal stuffiness.

•Nasal Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory medicines can reduce all symptoms when taken regularly, and can help block allergic reactions. They are widely considered to be the most effective medication for allergic rhinitis. Combining an antihistamine with a corticosteroid appears to be more effective than either of the nasal sprays alone.

•Decongestants: Intended for short-term use, oral and nasal decongestants help decrease swelling of the nasal passages, relieving nasal stuffiness.

•Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists: Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists, such as the prescription drug montelukast (Singulair®), block the action of leukotrienes – the chemical messengers involved in allergic reactions – when taken daily.

•Cromolyn Sodium: Cromolyn sodium is a nasal spray that blocks the release of chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. The drug causes few side effects, but must be taken regularly four times a day.

•Natural remedies include neti pots, saline spray, honey, herbs (spirulina, eyebright and goldenseal), steam showers, spicy foods, tea and eucalyptus oil.

Mankowski said before any over-the-counter antihistamines or allergy relief products are taken, patients need to ensure the allergies aren’t something more severe. Some people also struggle with asthma that’s either hereditary or caused by environmental factors. Even a cold can be mistaken for allergies as they have similar symptoms and duration.

Since respiratory problems are initially caused by pollen and dust in the air, one preventive measure is dusting, vacuuming and circulating clean air as much as possible. Other tips to consider include removing carpeting, not sleeping with pets and performing a deep wash of clothes, living surfaces and toys to remove dust mites that have remained stagnant all winter long.

“Being educated about allergies is the best way to manage through the season,” Mankowski said. “If you feel your allergies flaring up, see your Meijer pharmacist today about how you can beat them before the symptoms get out of hand.”