Tuesday Tip: Surviving Allergy Season
Windsor, ON - Warm weather has arrived – and is welcomed by most – but with it comes a whole host of airborne allergens that are very unwelcome and just downright irritating, annoying and bothersome for the many who suffer from environmental allergies.

Pesky pollens, weeds and grass cause a number of common allergy symptoms, including sneezing, runny and stuffed-up nose, itchy eyes, scratchy throat and sinus pain.

"Usually around the end of March or early April, allergies start to kick into high gear," says Lisa Verge, RN at St. Clair's Thames Campus Clinic.

Staff: Lisa Verge
Lisa Verge, RN at St. Clair's Thames Campus Clinic.

But there are a number of ways you can overcome, or at least reduce, your allergy symptoms, says Verge.

  1. Over-the-counter meds Verge says during allergy season, it's alright to take antihistamine medications every day to keep allergy symptoms to a minimum, but you should be aware of what's in them. "Some have a decongestant in it that affect different people differently," explains Verge. "For some, decongestants cause their heart to race, so it would be best to get an allergy medication without one." She adds that if you know you are going to be around allergens that typically affect you, it's alright to take an antihistamine preventatively before the onset of symptoms.
  2. Nasal sprays and rinses If you'd rather not take a pill, a saline nasal spray can be helpful. "It's more localized, but it depends on the symptoms you have," says Verge. "Nasal sprays are good if your allergy symptoms are generally in the nose area." And while the saline nasal sprays keep the area moist and somewhat help reduce symptoms, Verge says an actual irrigation-type nasal rinse can be even more helpful. "Something like a neti pot can make the world of difference if you do it on a daily basis," explains Verge. "It really keeps things nice and clear and cleans everything out. And it really brings down the congestion and soothes the membrane so it decreases inflammation, which is helpful."
  3. Eye drops Verge says there are a variety of lubricating drops that will provide relief to dry and itchy eyes that burn and swell.
  4. Wear sunglasses and a hat This prevents particles from entering into your eye, or sticking to your hair, which can follow you around wherever you go and worsen your allergy symptoms.
  5. Allergy shots For those who suffer severe allergies, allergy shots given by a healthcare provider may be an option. "But it's quite the commitment," explains Verge. "The maintenance is a lot, but it may be worth it for someone who is suffering enough that over-the-counter remedies aren't enough."
  6. Know when it's not allergies and you should see a doctor "Usually whatever phlegm or mucus coming out is clear if it is allergies," explains Verge. Then discolouration occurs when it may be something else, like a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics. Verge says the consistency gets thicker and the colour of the phlegm or mucus turns yellow or green in colour when it is more than just allergies. Other symptoms may also be present such as a cough or fever, which are not typical with allergies. "A sore throat is sort of on the cusp because with allergies. You may wake up with one, but it may just be from post-nasal drip at night time. Or if you're congested, you could have been mouth-breathing in the night and you could wake up with a sore throat and then you might think it's something more than just allergies," explains Verge. "If it's a cold, it would likely progress throughout the day, whereas if it's allergies, it would go away after you've eaten or drank something to coat the throat."

So use these pieces of advice from Verge to keep your allergy symptoms at bay and prevent allergens from making your life miserable this spring and summer!