More than 1 in 6 Canadians suffer from seasonal allergies each year. Depending on the specific type of allergen, symptoms for many can last from weeks to months between early spring and late fall.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is an over-reaction of your immune system to common substances. When the body encounters an “allergen”, the immune system releases IgE which in turn releases many chemicals (i.e. histamine) into the blood-stream. These chemicals then lead to inflammation and allergy symptoms. These symptoms are often referred to as seasonal allergies, allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
Why are some years worse than others for allergy symptoms?
Depending on the amount and type of pollen released each year, allergy symptoms can seem better or worse. Moist years with plenty of rain tend to keep allergy symptoms low, while in hot and dry years allergy symptoms can be worse.
What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?
Common symptoms of allergies are:
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Mouth breathing
How can you prevent seasonal allergy symptoms?
Environmental control can help to keep allergy symptoms at bay. The following tips can help to ward off seasonal allergies:
- Keep windows and doors closed
- Monitor pollen counts and avoid prolonged outdoor exposure when they are high.
- Do not dry clothes outdoors
- Shower or bathe immediately after outdoor activity
Are there any non-prescription treatments?
Oral antihistamine medications are the most widely used treatment for mild to moderate allergy symptoms.
There are two classes of antihistamines:
- Older, 1st generation, antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
- Newer, 2nd generation, antihistamines such as Reactine (cetirazine), Aerius (loratidine), and Claratin (desloratidine)
1st generation antihistamines have many side effects such as drowsiness and dry mouth. Additionally, these medications have many interactions with other medications and can’t be taken if you have glaucoma or prostate prob-lems.
Since the introduction of the 2nd generation antihistamines to the market, older antihistamines are no longer used for the daily prevention of seasonal allergies. These newer medications are very well tolerated, with most people experiencing little or no side effects while taking them. Additionally, there aren’t as many drug interactions and they are safe to take if you have glaucoma or prostate problems.
Anti-histamines (2nd generation) must be taken once daily on a daily basis for as long as a person requires during their allergy season. If one antihistamine isn’t working, often switching to another antihistamine can result in resolution of symptoms.
Ask your pharmacist today for help selecting the right treatment for your allergies!
For moderate-severe allergy symptoms, or for those unresolved with over the counter therapies, a prescription medication may be required.
See your doctor as soon as possible if your allergy symptoms are out of control.
For more information visit www.aaia.ca