Here it comes. The faint itching feeling in your nose. The faint watering of the eyes and the slight soreness whenever you rub it away. Then comes the sneezing, the coughing, and finally, your respiratory system seems to shut down entirely. You can't breathe, can't think, and can't even hear very well. Yes indeed, springtime is here.
Sound familiar? Then you are most likely one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, more commonly known as hay fever or just plain allergies. During the spring and summer, several plants, including grasses, trees, and weeds, release pollen into the air. If your body is sensitive to one or several of these pollens, then your immune system immediately launches an attack on the offending invaders with its army of histamines. This overreaction of your body triggers runny noses, sneezing, and inflamed sinuses, nose, and eyes. Many also experience a feeling of fatigue or just a vague "fuzziness" in their heads, making it hard to function.
There are several options available for the treatment of allergies. Some are common over-the-counter medications, such as Benadryl or Claritin. However, these drugs may not work for everyone, and drugs such as Benadryl that contain antihistamines, or chemicals that block the histamines in your body that cause these reactions, tend to make the user sleepy and unfocused. Not very idea for school or work.
Other prescription medications, such as Singulair, may work better. Nasal sprays may give relief for runny, stuffy, or itchy noses. Also, a new treatment has been developed, in the form of an allergy vaccine. Allergy sufferers need to visit an allergist to get a scratch test, which means that a doctor will very lightly scratch the surface of your skin with different allergy-causing things - everything from pollen to cats or dogs. This will tell your allergist what you are allergic to. From that information, they make up a personalized serum in a vaccine to try and combat the seasonal allergy blues. Many people have had great success with these vaccines; however, you have to get the vaccine quite frequently - the doctor starts you off once or twice a week, and then spaces them out more and more as time goes on. The general idea is to get your body used to the allergens so that you won't have a reaction.
If you're iffy about medication or vaccines, there are some simpler remedies that may help reduce your allergy symptoms. In the spring and summer, ride with your car windows up and if you need to use the air conditioning, re circulate the air in the car (the max AC setting) so that no new pollens from outside are pulled into the car. Close the windows at home as well, and if you're willing to invest the money, an air purifier will help clean existing pollen from the air in the house. Vacuuming more will reduce pollen in the carpets and drapes. Also, if at all possible, try to stay indoors in the late morning and early afternoon; pollen counts are higher during this time of day.
The most important part of trying to find relief for allergy symptoms is to find what works best for you. Not everyone's bodies are the same, and only YOU can know how you react with different medications and situations. Talk to your doctor if your allergies are a problem, or even if you aren't sure about what course to take. But most of all, be careful when choosing a treatment, whether it's something as simple as popping a Benadryl or something as time-consuming as weekly allergy shots. Think about what allergy relief is worth to you, and then experiment a bit with different medications - if one doesn't work, then tell your doctor and try something else. If you haven't been in to see a doctor yet, try to write down all you can remember about medications you've tried: when you started taking them and stopped taking them, how well they worked, and how much you were taking. Communication is one of the most important tools you have with your doctor - so use it!
And, if nothing else, always keep a ready supply of tissues at hand.