Health Team

Avoidance, pills, shots can help with spring allergies

Posted April 10, 2009 5:32 p.m. EDT
Updated April 10, 2009 7:10 p.m. EDT

One of the most beautiful times of the year can also be a miserable time for spring allergy sufferers. With professional help, even the allergic can enjoy spring without symptoms.

Abby Petty was used to withdrawing just as flowers and trees began to bloom. She suffers the sneezing, itchy, runny nose and general blah feeling that plagues many spring allergy sufferers.

“I deal with it from the end of March through the middle of May,” she said.

Allergist Dr. Karen Dunn said sufferers like Petty need not worry about visible green pine pollens. “Oak and hickory, for example, are actually the pollens that create most of the real problems,” she said.

For some, the solution to allergy symptoms can be as simply as avoiding pollen. Don't venture outdoors until after 10 in the morning, when pollen counts start to drop. After you come indoors, change your clothing and shower to wash pollen out of your hair.

Dunn advises allergy sufferers to try first over-the-counter allergy medicines -- like Claritin, Zyrtec or the cheaper generic brands. Benadryl works as well, but it carries a side effect of drowsiness. Over the counter nasal sprays can also help control congestion.

For Petty, what she found at the pharmacy was not good enough.

“They helped for three to four hours at a time,” she said, “But I felt like, well, I'm just helping the symptoms and I'd like to get to the root of the problems.”

Dunn said when sufferers get to the point where medicines cannot control allergy symptoms, it is time for a full allergy evaluation.

Doctors will find out precisely what causes an allergic reaction, then offer allergy shots to provide longer term relief.

Petty started a regimen of once-a-week shots and is looking forward to enjoying the outdoors again once her results kick in.