Allergies Seasonal Medical Treatment

Seasonal allergies are triggered by harmless substances that are only around during certain times of the year. In people with allergies, the body misinterprets these harmless substances as dangerous foreign invaders. To fight off the perceived danger, an immune response begins, releasing chemicals including histamine, which triggers allergy symptoms.

No one knows exactly what causes seasonal allergies. Here are some known risk factors:

  • being the first born child in your family
  • birth during a pollen season
  • family history of allergy
  • male gender.

Seasonal Allergy Triggers

Pollens are the most common triggers for seasonal allergies. Pollen seasons vary with climate and geographic location. Some of the most common pollen allergies include:

  • grass pollens during late spring and summer
  • tree pollens in the spring
  • weed pollens during the fall months.

Allergy Treatment Medications

For some people, allergy symptoms are only a minor annoyance, and pass quickly. If your symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your concentration, enjoyment of outdoor activities or sleep, you may want to seek treatment for some relief. Your doctor can help you decide on the best seasonal allergy treatment for you. Here are some of the most commonly prescribed allergy treatments:

  • Antihistamines: Available as oral medications or nasal sprays, antihistamines block the chemical histamine, which is released during an allergic reaction. This helps relieve itching, runny nose and sneezing. Some of the older oral antihistamines may make you drowsy. Antihistamines can be found in prescription and over-the-counter strengths, and are not as effective at clearing nasal congestion as other allergy treatments.
  • Decongestants: These medications dry up and clear nasal congestion. They are available in both prescription and non-prescription strength in liquid, nasal spray or pills. Some cautions apply to the use of decongestants, as they can raise blood pressure and aggravate prostate conditions. Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than two to three days at a time, as they have a rebound effect that actually worsens congestion with continued use.
  • Cromolyn Sodium: This over-the-counter nasal spray has no serious side effects, and works by preventing the release of histamine. It must be used several times a day and is most effective when started before you experience symptoms.
  • Corticosteroid Eyedrops: These prescription drops relieve itchy, red and watery eyes. Possible side effects may include blurred vision and increased risk of cataracts, eye infection and glaucoma.
  • Leukotriene Modifiers: These prescription medications relieve allergic asthma and hay fever by blocking leukotrienes, which are chemicals that cause overproduction of mucus and other allergy symptoms. Possible side effects include abdominal pain, cough, dental pain, dizziness and headache.
  • Nasal Atropine: This prescription nasal spray prevents nasal glands from producing too much fluid to relieve severe runny nose. It does not relieve congestion, postnasal drip or sneezing. Side effects may include dry nasal passages, nosebleeds and sore throat. Some rare, serious side effects include blurred vision, difficulty urinating and dizziness. Men with an enlarged prostate and people with glaucoma should not use nasal atropine.
  • Nasal Corticosteroids: These prescription nasal sprays prevent and treat inflammation in the nose and sinuses, but may take up to a week to be effective. While nasal corticosteroids are considered safe for long-term use in most cases, some side effects can occur. These include nasal irritation and an unpleasant sense of smell or taste.
  • Oral Corticosteroids: For short-term use to relieve severe allergy symptoms, oral corticosteroids can be extremely effective. These medications are generally not be used to treat allergies over long periods of time because they can cause cataracts, muscle weakness and osteoporosis.

Treating Allergies with Immunotherapy

When over-the-counter and prescription medications don’t bring enough relief, doctors sometimes recommend immunotherapy. Also called desensitization therapy, treatment consists of regular injections given over a period of three to five years. These allergy shots contain purified extracts of the specific allergens that are causing your symptoms. Immunotherapy can desensitize you to these allergens, relieving your symptoms and reducing your need for medication. Immunotherapy is considered very effective for allergies to:

  • cat dander
  • dust mites
  • grass pollen
  • tree pollen
  • weed pollen.

Children who receive immunotherapy may be less likely to develop asthma during their lives.

Resources

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2008). Hay fever. Retrieved March 21, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hay-fever/DS00174.

Revolution Health Group LLC. (2009). Allergy medications: Know your options. Retrieved March 21, 2009, from the Revolution Health Web site: http://www.revolutionhealth.com/conditions/asthma-allergies/hay-fever-seasonal-allergies/treatments-medications/medications.