Allergies are a condition in which the immune system reacts abnormally to a foreign substance – such as pollen, mold or pet dander. When our bodies come into contact with allergens, our immune system’s antibodies work to identify what is causing those pesky symptoms like watery, itchy eyes; sneezing, sniffling, wheezing and rashes.
Allergens can enter our bodies in a few different ways, however, but the most common way is by inhalation into the nose and lungs. Allergens are often inhaled via airborne pollens of certain trees, grasses, weeds, house dust — including dust mite particles — mold spores, or cat and dog dander.
While they may be uncomfortable, these antigens are not actually harmful, but the body’s immune system thinks they are. Therefore, allergies are actually a result of the immune system’s mistaken response to a harmless substance.
With spring just around the corner, allergens will soon be more prevalent given the warmer weather, causing the airborne allergen levels to rise. In turn, if you have allergies, your symptoms will soon be flaring up.
So how can you best prepare yourself for the upcoming allergy season? Here are some tips:
Start taking allergy medications as soon as possible. They often work best when started before the symptoms begin. Some over-the-counter antihistamines that may be helpful include:
- Zyrtec (certirizine)
Over-the-counter medications that have a “D” tacked on the end, like Allegra-D, Claritin-D, and Zyrtec-D, are a combination of antihistamine and decongestant to relieve both allergies and congestion.
If you’re not into taking medication, there are other things you can try:
- Stay indoors during peak pollen hours. (Know what the pollen count is.) Close windows, turn the air conditioning on to help decrease allergy symptoms.
- Protect your eyes. Wear a hat that blocks your face or wear sunglasses to prevent pollen and molds from getting into your eyes.
- Avoid hair products – they attract pollen.
- Shower daily to wash any pollen, mold or animal dander out of your hair and off of your skin.
- Wash clothing and bedding frequently to prevent allergens from sticking around.
For those with severe allergies, shots given by a doctor around once a month and prescription sublingual tablets also exist as more lasting alternatives. The aim of these is to improve a patient’s tolerance of allergy triggers – thus relieving the symptoms allergies cause.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter and Facebook.