March 21, 2016

by Mankato Clinic

Families everywhere are rejoicing at spring’s official arrival on March 20, eager to leave their homes and take in the sun. However, for at least one in five Americans, the tree buds make something else pop up – allergies.

From over-the-counter medication to nasal sprays, there are dozens of options to treat allergies, and it’s important to know what triggers your or your family members’ symptoms. An allergic reaction typically triggers symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin. For some people, allergies can also trigger symptoms of asthma. In the most serious case, a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. 

It isn’t unusual for more than one family member to suffer from allergies or asthma. There can be not only a genetic component to allergies, but environmental factors can play a role as well. The most common allergens include: pollen, dust, food, insect stings, animal dander, mold, medications and latex. Depending on what allergies people are demonstrating, one of the first things you should do is check your surroundings.

You may find yourself sneezing more in July than in April, while your child may sneeze more in December than May. That’s because, throughout the year, different allergens affect different people. In spring, mold and tree pollen cause a lot of allergy symptoms; in summer, it can be grass pollen; in the fall, weed pollen is a significant trigger; and come winter, indoor molds and dust become strong allergens.

For pollen sufferers, an effective way to treat your allergy is to keep windows closed and spend more time indoors when the pollen count is high, and make sure to rinse your hair prior to sleeping if you are spending lots of time outdoors. If you have pet dander sensitivity, do your best to not allow the family pet in your bedroom. A HEPA air purifier in the bedroom will help ease your symptoms, as will a dehumidifier in the basement if your home has dampness.  

It’s no secret that life with allergies can be a physically draining experience, often causing you to feel miserable during your everyday activities. Not taking control of your allergies can cause missed days of work or school. In some cases you can make yourself more susceptible to sinus infections and asthma flare-ups if your allergies aren’t properly controlled. It’s common for many allergy sufferers to have asthma because allergic inflammation affecting the upper airways can also affect the lower airways.

Sure, you might find yourself reaching for the Kleenex box a little more than usual around this time of year, but how do you know whether you have a cold or are showing signs of allergies? You may have allergies is if you notice yourself or a family member having cold symptoms for more than seven to 10 days, especially if this occurs frequently throughout the year or frequently during one or more seasons.

Other factors to look for in determining if you have allergies is frequent sneezing, a runny, stuffy or itchy nose, wheezing, coughing, a dry or scaly rash and symptoms after eating food like swelling of the lips, tongue or eyelids.

However, there is no better test to determine if you have allergies than having an allergist perform allergy testing. Typically allergy skin testing is done by an allergist. From babies to senior citizens, skin testing can be done at any age. A skin test involves taking a tiny amount of extract of allergens –such as dust mites, pollens, mold, animal dander– and applying this as a scratch on the skin. After 15 minutes, each test is read, to look for swelling or redness at the scratch site, which may indicate an allergy.

If an allergic reaction is found, your doctor will more than likely, recommend medications. Medications may include oral antihistamines, like Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra. Under the direction of a health care provider, a nasal spray is also an allergy relief option, as is a sinus rinsing. For those with harder to treat environmental allergens that don’t respond adequately to medicines and environmental control measures, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be prescribed. Allergy shots help build up your immune system’s tolerance to the environmental allergens.

Whether it’s Match or October, allergies will find a way to make you sneeze, making it that much more important to talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. A referral to an allergist may be just what the doctor ordered. Medically trained to know the ins and outs of allergies, an allergist can help evaluate your problems and find a solution. If you’re not having any improvements with what your primary care physician has advised or over-the-counter medication, an allergist can help delve deeper into your allergy care.

If any of these symptoms are sounding familiar for you or your family members, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your medical provider – relief is in sight. For more information, visit or