The long winter has finally faded and summer is in full swing. Everywhere you look you see beauty abounding… until the sneezing just won’t stop, your nose is running, your eyes are itching and watering, and you’re just miserable.
Chances are you’re suffering from pollen allergies.
While it’s no fun, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone: More than 50 million Americans have to deal with allergies each year.
Pollen is an allergen that travels through the air that can greatly affect our health. Pollen grains or powder are light enough to travel through the air; pollen is designed this way so the plants that produce it can reproduce themselves as the pollen reaches similar plants.
The amount and kind of pollen in the air depends on several factors, including the season and the geographic region where you live. You’ll find tree pollen in the air in the spring, grass pollen in the summer, and weed pollen in the fall.
If you’re allergic to pollen, your immune system identifies it as a threat when it enters your body.
This triggers the various allergic reactions we’ve already mentioned — runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, and more.
Your first step is to get tested at your doctor’s office to determine if you really are allergic to pollen. A skin-prick test can usually give you the answer you’re looking for.
Assuming you’re allergic to pollen, there are a variety of treatments you can try. Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines block the histamines your body makes in response to the allergens that cause your itchy throat, watering eyes, and runny nose. Nasal decongestants and nasal sprays can help you breathe easier as well.
If OTC medicines don’t work well enough, your doctor can prescribe stronger medications, and if those aren’t effective, your next step can be immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy treatment for allergies is sometimes also called allergy shots. The treatment works like a vaccine. Dr. Narula or a member of his team will inject a tiny amount of the allergen in gradually increasing doses each week. Over time, your immune system builds up a tolerance to the allergen, which can cause your symptoms to decrease.
Immunotherapy usually takes place in two phases. The build-up phase involves the injections with increasing amounts of allergens once or twice a week for three to six months. Once the effective dose is reached (this depends on your sensitivity and your response to the build-up phase), you’ll begin the maintenance phase. In this phase, you’ll have a longer period of time (usually two to four weeks) between shots. It may take up to a year in the maintenance phase to experience full symptom relief.
Immunotherapy can also be targeted directly to each patient’s needs, depending on the results of your allergy tests. Dr. Narula and the team will custom-tailor a treatment for your specific allergy; immunotherapy has been shown to be effective in decreasing your body’s reaction to pollen.
You can also fight pollen allergies by avoiding pollen as much as possible. Most weather reports and weather apps will give you the day’s estimated pollen count. When the count is high, stay inside as much as possible. And, when you know there’s a lot of pollen, you can also start your medications even before you notice symptoms.
When you do have to go outside, wear a hat and sunglasses to keep pollen off your hair and out of your eyes. Then when you come in from outside, take a shower and wash your hair before you go to bed each night; this will keep pollen from transferring to your pillowcase where you would breathe it all night.
If your allergies are getting the best of you and you need treatment, Voss Family Clinic is here to help. You can call our Sugar Land, Texas office at 281-918-8579 or book an appointment yourself with our online scheduler.