With flowers blooming and temperatures starting to warm up, you may be reaching for your allergy meds — or maybe not.
It’s a little too early to predict the severity of the spring allergy season this year in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to a warm winter, an early spring with vigorous springtime allergies was predicted as early as a month ago.
But the recent cold front with snowfall and freezing temperatures has delayed the onset of the season and may affect the severity of spring allergies associated with it.
Sepehr Oliaei, MD, an ear, nose and throat doctor at MultiCare, says he began seeing patients suffering from spring allergies in late February. In the Pacific Northwest, tree pollen (especially alder) is most prevalent from February to April, grass pollen from May to July, then weed pollen in August and September.
Dr. Oliaei recommends a three-pronged approach of avoidance, medication and allergy testing. Avoid going outside when pollen is at its peak, take medication as needed and have allergy testing done if your allergies become too severe.
Below are some additional ways to minimize exposure to pollen and some treatment options if you experience symptoms.
• Allergies tend to be worse in middle of the day, so play outside during the morning or evening to provide less exposure to pollen.
• Wear glasses and a hat to keep pollen off the face and eyes.
• If a child starts to experience a reaction while playing at a park, find a water fountain and wash their hands and face.
• It also helps to wash off after play time outdoors.
• Don’t dry their sheets outdoors in the pollen season, as they’ll accumulate pollen.
• When you sleep at night, keep your head away from any open windows.
Seasonal allergy treatments
• Taking a simple antihistamine before outdoor activity can help. Generic, over-the-counter antihistamines are very good and can cost a penny or less per dose. Don’t be afraid to avoid the expensive name brands.
• A saltwater nasal wash or a neti pot can be effective at reducing nasal secretions and congestion, and saline doesn’t have any side effects.
• Eye symptoms are primarily related to congestion. Any decongestant for the nose can also reduce eye symptoms, without the need for eye drops, which can sting and be hard to put in your child’s eyes.
If those steps don’t work, a whole host of other medications are available by prescription:
• Intranasal steroid sprays
• Antihistamine, as a nasal spray or taken by mouth
• Eye drops
• Cromolyn, which is available by prescription or as over-the-counter nasal spray or drops
How do you know whether you should try something more than simple medication? Generally, allergies can be managed with simple medications and avoidance if:
• Symptoms are mild and don’t limit attendance at school or work
• They don’t interfere with your ability to sleep at night
• They don’t interfere with your daytime activities
If your life is impaired by allergies, it may be time to consider allergy immunotherapy. Visit an ear, nose and throat allergy specialist for an evaluation and appropriate treatment.
MultiCare Health System is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 18,000 employees, providers and volunteers. Visit multicare.org.