Allergy Season: Not Just a Spring Thing

by Hojat Askari, M.D., Board Certified Internal Medicine, Medical Director at Thumb Butte Medical Center

If you’re frustrated because we’ve gotten past the spring blooming season and you’re still dealing with head pressure, watery eyes, swollen lids, coughing and other allergy symptoms, there could be another culprit making you miserable: grass. 

You develop allergies when your body overreacts to substances that don’t cause problems for most people. These things are called allergens, and some people have none or just a couple allergens to deal with, with some unlucky others dealing with multiple triggers. 

If you have allergies, your body releases chemicals when you are exposed to an allergen. One such chemical is called histamine. Histamine is your body’s defense against the allergen. The release of histamine causes your symptoms.

The amount of pollen circulating from trees and flowering plants in our area is usually pretty low by early summer, but the grass is just getting started with its process. Many species don’t release pollen until they reach a certain height and bloom, but Bermuda and some others produce it even when cut short. 

The microscopic pollen particles are carried far and wide by strong, dry wind, the kind we see plenty of in our area before the monsoon begins to take hold. You can cut down on the amount you come into contact with by closing doors and windows, wearing pants and long sleeves outside and changing clothes and perhaps showering once you get indoors. 

There are numerous medications used to treat allergy symptoms available over-the-counter, with a prescription or both. 

  • Immunotherapy, administered through allergy shots or sublingual drops, are an option for people who try other treatments but still have allergy symptoms. These medications contain a very small amount of the allergen you are allergic to. They are the only allergy treatments which do not have a risk of significant side effects. 
  • Antihistamines help reduce the sneezing, runny nose, and itchiness of allergies. These come in pill form and as nasal sprays. Many are available over the counter, but some require a prescription.
  • Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, temporarily relieve the stuffy nose of allergies. They are best used only for a short time. Nose sprays and drops shouldn’t be used for more than three days. You can buy decongestants without a prescription, but they can raise your blood pressure, so talk to your physician before using them if you have high blood pressure.
  • Leukotriene inhibitors are prescription pills that help block leukotrienes. Leukotrienes are another class of chemicals that the body releases when exposed to allergens.
  • Cromolyn sodium is a nasal spray that helps prevent the body’s reaction to allergens. This medicine may take 2 to 4 weeks to start working. It is available without a prescription.
  • Nasal steroid sprays reduce the reaction of the nasal tissues to inhaled allergens, reducing the swelling in your nose. They are the most effective at treating patients who have chronic symptoms. Many nasal steroids are now available without a prescription. You won’t notice their benefits for up to 2 weeks after starting them.
  • Eye drops. If your other medicines are not helping enough with your itchy, watery eyes, your doctor may prescribe eye drops for you. Some are available over the counter.

Did you know it’s best to treat allergies before symptoms show up? If you have grass pollen allergies, now is the time to proactively consult a physician. 

At Thumb Butte Medical Center, we can identify your allergies by a simple blood test or skin test which identifies antibodies to 79 different allergens. We then can develop a treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms. If your allergies have already kicked in, we offer treatments.

Contact Brittany Scully, our allergy specialist, at 928-225-5145 to alleviate your allergy-caused suffering.