There is only one thing standing between many people and a happy spring: allergies.
“When people exhibit symptoms like a runny nose, coughing, itchy or watery eyes – these can all be signs of an allergy,” said Manav Segal, M.D., a board certified allergist and immunologist.
Segal’s practice, Chestnut Hill Allergy & Asthma Associates, serves Chestnut Hill and is set to open a new location in Center City this April. The group treats asthma, allergy and immunologic disorders.
With the season of pollen upon us, a plan of action can be helpful to prepare and prevent irritating allergies from putting a damper on a beautiful day. NewsWorks put together some quick tips and expert advice.
Allergies are often seasonal, and there are multiple triggers, such as pollen (ragweed), trees and grass. Perennial allergens include mold, animal dander and dust.
Segal says pollen allergies are difficult to avoid, and recommends keeping the windows of houses closed and turning on the air conditioning.
“I recommend showering after being outdoors because pollen can attach to hair and clothing,” said Segal. “You can also protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses.”
When it comes to air purifiers for your home, Segal says the results have been mixed.
“I tell my patients that an air purifier will better serve them in a bedroom or enclosed space,” said Segal. “One purifier will not be very effective for an entire household.”
In addition to standard over-the-counter options, he also recommends neti pots, a nasal irrigation device, to relieve sinus symptoms. Neti pots ranges in price from $10 to $15.
Finding the pollen count
Finding the pollen count for your area each day can help you know the best time to take medications and precautions.
“Most people suffer from nasal allergy symptoms due to changes in the environment or pollen levels,” said Segal.A pollen count is a calculation of the number of pollen grains (usually ragweed) in a standard volume of air over a 24-hour period and a specified time and place. These are published daily on several websites, such as www.pollen.com and www.weather.com.
Is an allergist right for you?
It could be time to see an allergist if you want to confirm a diagnosis of allergies or asthma, and define the triggers of your symptoms.
“If people want to address allergies from a big picture standpoint, allergen immunotherapy or allergy shots could be a good treatment option,” said Segal.
Segal says an allergy test is the first step to determine triggers, if over-the-counter medicines do not remedy symptoms and provide adequate relief.
Tips for your pets, too
Corey Di Lella, DVM, says pets can suffer from allergies just the same as humans.
“You’ll start to see your pet exhibit runny eyes, itchy, swollen skin and even respiratory signs like sneezing,” said Di Lella, who practices at Mt. Airy Animal Hospital, located at 114 E. Mt. Airy Ave.
Just as in humans, an animal’s allergic reaction can be caused by pollen, dust, an ingredient in its food, a household chemical and even an insect bite.
Di Lella says spring is also a time to consider preventative flea treatment for pets.
“If they’re scratching and chewing on their skin, it could be a sign of fleas or possibly a skin allergy,” said Di Lella.
What treatment is right for your pet?
According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the first step in allergy treatment is to find out what your pet is allergic to through testing by your veterinarian.
Generally, animal allergies fall into four main categories: Contact, food, inhalant and flea allergies. Di Lella says treatments for allergy symptoms can include antihistamines, which work to reduce itching and inflammation, antibiotics or therapeutic baths.
Steroid treatment can be used to suppress the immune system and make the allergic reaction less severe. Immunotherapy is also available for pets, although it can take 6 to 12 months before animals show any improvement from the treatment.
Other solutions include shampoos with ingredients like oatmeal or Epsom salts and ointments.
“How we treat it will depend on what the underlying problem is,” said Di Lella. “Generally, animals can be sensitive to mold or dust. I’ll have owners come in and say, ‘this happens every spring.’ Whatever the season, pets suffer the same as humans from allergies.”
Whatever treatment route you take, be sure to consult with your veterinarian or search for an AAHA-accredited vet at www.healthypet.com.