Affinity Health Plan

  • Treating Seasonal Allergies Yourself

    June 26, 2015
    Several months remain in what, for many, has been an insufferable sneezin’ season. And the misery isn’t over yet. “Late August is when Ragweed and fall grass season gets underway,” said Guy Robinson, a biologist who directs Fordham University’s pollen monitoring station. Now, depending on your allergic reaction to airborne mold spores, pollens allergybluemanfrom grass, trees and the weeds, you might be able to manage the rest of this allergy season yourself with over-the-counter medicines.
    “It is absolutely OK to treat yourself, because the medications are safe, and they do make you feel better,” said Dr. Stanley Goldstein, an allergist, asthma and immunology specialist. What’s more, it could save the time of repeated doctor visits and waits to fill the prescription.

    Once by Prescription Only
    If you know what causes your allergy and if the symptoms are not overwhelming, such generic medicines as Loratadine, Fexofenadine and Cetirizine can treat sneezing, itchy-watery eyes, itchy throats and ears, runny noses, stuffiness, coughs and other allergy symptoms.
    For those whose tough nasal allergies cause runny or congested noses, try over-the-counter nasal steroids. They have no connection to the dangerous anabolic body-builder steroids. The active ingredient in the nasal steroids is corticosteroids, and it safely reduces the swelling that causes stuffiness.
    All of these medications were once dispensed by prescription only. “Now they are [sold] over the counter, are the same dosage, and they work the same,” Dr. Goldstein said. What’s more, these medicines do not generally cause the drowsy side effects that the older allergy medications did. “And they are available both for children as well as adults,” he added.
    But take note: If you are having allergic symptoms for the first time, consult either a doctor or an allergist/immunologist. “Other things like a good old respiratory infection or a cold could mimic seasonal allergies,” Dr. Goldstein cautioned.
    That said, if you are a mild to moderate sufferer, these treatments could make the rest of the allergy season less miserable and maybe even less costly.
    Here are more tips to help you cope during allergy season:
    • Get local and regional pollen counts online at Fordham University’s Aero-Allergen Monitoring Stations. For brief updates, follow them on Twitter at @FordhamPollen.
    • Get local and regional pollen accounts at Pollen.com
    • Take allergy medicine well before going outside.
    • If the pollen count is too high try to stay inside and keep the windows closed.
    • Use the air conditioner to filter pollen out of the air.

    The Latest Remedies
    For those who seek the latest treatment and want to end the agony of grass or ragweed allergies for good, a prescription is needed. Oralair and Grastek for grass allergies and Ragwitek for ragweed, only available from a doctor, are the latest entrants in the allergy sufferer’s arsenal. These meds aim to put an everlasting end to grass and ragweed allergies. These drugs, approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration, work by making the sufferer less sensitive to the allergen. “The person can be desensitized by putting a prescription tablet underneath their tongue,” Dr. Goldstein said. It dissolves and, over time, stimulates your body to build immunity to the pollen.

    Caution: Allergies can lead to Asthma
    For those seriously bothered by allergies, see either your doctor or an allergist as severe seasonal allergies can lead to asthma. “In fact, you will find that 60 percent of the people who have asthma have an underlying allergy,” Dr. Goldstein pointed out.
    Allergies cause asthma because the pollen is inhaled into the airways of the lungs through air tubes known as bronchi. “That exposure to allergens results in a release of different chemicals in the airways that cause them to become inflamed, overproduce mucous and to become narrowed,” Dr. Goldstein said, adding, “That can result in wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing.” This can lead to an asthma attack for which a doctor or an asthma and allergy specialist is needed. In these cases, allergy injections go a long way in preventing those problems.

    So, allergy sufferers don’t fret. Several options are available to reduce your discomfort. Researching and finding the right medication for your situation is the key to alleviating your symptoms.

    Dr. Stanley Goldstein is board certified in adult and pediatric allergy, asthma and immunology, and pediatric pulmonology. In practice for 39 years, he received his medical degree from New York Medical College. He has served as a board member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Dr. Goldstein has a practice in Rockville Center, Long Island, and is affiliated with Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center. Dr. Goldstein’s practice provides services to members of the Affinity Health Plan.

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