Spring has sprung, and, while many can enjoy the outdoors on a beautiful spring afternoon, those of us with seasonal allergies can suffer. Seasonal allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as hay fever, affects thousands of people in Central Florida. Symptoms include sneezing, stuffiness, a runny nose and itchiness in your nose, the roof of your mouth, throat, eyes or ears. Family physician Dr. Robert Rodgers of Florida Hospital Medical Group, offers the following tips for getting your spring off to the good start.
Get ahead of it.
Allergens are tough to avoid completely, says Dr. Rodgers. Still, there are a few steps you can take as the season ramps up that may make things easier on you and your whole family.
- An ounce of prevention. If you have a history of allergies that flare in the spring, start your treatment plan early , immediately when symptoms start. "If you've taken, for example, an over the counter antihistamine in past years, start taking it early and get it in your system," Dr. Rodgers says.
- Keep it clean. Sweep, dust, vacuum, and disinfect your house frequently. Kids, pets and adults can track in allergens like pollen and grasses. If you can't avoid them outside, at least reduce them inside.
- Go over the counter. "A lot of stuff patients used to come to see me for they can now get at their local pharmacy," Dr. Rodgers says. "Nasal steroids can be affective, as well as antihistamines like Claritin and Allegra – these things, along with nasal saline, are options available now without a prescription."
- Know when to come in. "If you can't control your allergies with over-the-counter medications, you can see your primary care physician for consideration of a short course of anti-inflammatory steroids like Prednisone or adding a leukotriene modifiers like Singulair. If these things aren't -successful, this is the point where I would send a patient to an allergist for specific testing, but nearly all patients can be treated by PCPs for seasonal allergies."
What if it's not allergies?
"Differentiating between allergies and a cold can be hard for patients and doctors," says Dr. Rodgers. "So much overlaps. Many times, the determining factors have to do with previous history. In Florida, February through April is when we see a lot of allergens in the air. The general rule is if there is fever present, it's more than an allergy attack." Here's a handy chart that can help determine what that sneeze really means.
|Duration of Illness||Over 10-14 days||Under 10 days||Varies|
|Nasal Discharge||Thick, yellow green||Thick, whitish or thin||Clear, thin, watery|
|Pain in upper teeth||Sometimes||No||No|
What about asthma?
"Asthma is closely related with allergies," says Dr. Rodgers. "It's an atopic condition that can be inherited, and even if you haven't experienced it since childhood, it can show up again in adulthood depending on the triggers in the air." If you are having such difficulty with allergy symptoms and wheezing develops, see a doctor. Wheezing -- a whistling sound you hear when you breathe – can be present with allergies, but is normally associated with asthma. Asthma and some allergic reactions are similar in that they affect the airways and lungs. This can make the airways swollen and narrow, sometimes causing mucus to form.
[chart or infographic with info below]
More about wheezing.
When should I see a doctor?
- You are experiencing wheezing, even mild wheezing, for the first time
- Your wheezing is recurrent
- You are wheezing but have no history of allergies
When should I go to the ER?
- You are having difficulty breathing
- Your lips or skin have a bluish tint
- You begin wheezing after choking on food
- You begin wheezing after being stung by an insect