Got allergies? How to make it through spring

Got allergies? How to make it through spring

Seattle -- Have the blooming trees got you sneezing, wiping your eyes and feeling itchy? Seasonal allergies are back for many Seattleites. But don’t start inflating your giant bubble yet, we’ve got tips from some local allergy specialists that may help you get out and enjoy the sun without the inhaler.

Find the “right” medication

One of the greatest perils allergy sufferers seem to face is determining which medication will best treat their system. Unfortunately, Dr. Michael Wolfe, a surgeon and allergy specialist at Pacific Medical Centers, says that’s not always easy.

“Getting the right combination of medications for you is a lot of trial and error,” Wolfe says. “The best thing to do is try to find what works for you.”

Wolfe recommends patients start by trying less-sedating antihistamines, which are less likely to make you drowsy. If those don’t work, he says you should be evaluated by a physician who can make sure your symptoms are caused by allergies and not something else like a sinus infection.

Doctors can also prescribe steroid nasal sprays and other prescription medications.

For those who are not helped by antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medications, Wolfe recommends allergy immunotherapy shots. These are given weekly or bi-weekly for three to five years.  Doctors will gradually give the patient increasing doses of an allergen, causing the immune system to become less sensitive to the substance.

“The shots are a quasi-cure,” Wolfe said. “Very few people can make that commitment but those that do are very happy with it.”

Non-medication tips

There are a lot of things people can do besides taking medications to relieve their allergy symptoms, Wolfe said.

For one, he says allergy suffers should get tested to find out what they are allergic to and do their best to avoid the allergen. While this may be possible with things like pets, it can be more challenging for those allergic to pollen who don’t plan to stay indoors through Halloween.

Wolfe also encourages all allergy sufferers to try relieving their symptoms with nasal irrigation with salt water or saline.

“That works extremely well,” Wolfe said. “It washes allergens out of the nose and you feel instantaneously better.” 

Dr. Marlene Peng, an allergy specialist at the Minor & James Medical Center, recommends people allergic to pollen always wash their hands and even their face after being outside. She says showering at night can also help people remove any allergens before going to sleep.

Peng says it can also help to keep your home and car windows closed and avoid drying their clothes outside. 

If you’re willing to make the investment, Peng says seasonal allergy sufferers can also benefit from a HEPA filter air purifier.

Finally, Peng says it can be helpful to research pollen counts online.

Tips for year-round allergies

Wolfe also offered tips to year-round allergy sufferers. If you are allergic to pets, he recommends creating an allergy “safe zone” by keeping them out of the bedroom. He says it is especially important that pets not be allowed in places where you sleep.

People with dust mite allergies should vacuum frequently, Wolfe says. Better yet, get rid of the carpet. He says frequent dusting also helps, and people with allergies should use dust mite-proof pillow cases.

Stuffed animals can also carry dust mites, Wolfe says, so people who are allergic to them should limit the number of plush toys they have and frequently throw them in the dryer. 

Wolfe also recommends anyone allergic to mold make sure any aquariums and refrigerator water pans are clean and get rid of house plants, which also tend to carry mold.

No matter what you are allergic to, Wolfe urges anyone to seek professional help if they cannot manage their allergies on their own.

“For most allergies are just a nuisance, but for some it is a hug quality of life issue,” Wolfe says.