How to Deal with Springtime Allergies

Jeff Stokes, M.D., an associate professor of medicine with Creighton University School of Medicine and allergist/immunologist with Creighton Medical Associates.

Rising temperatures have lengthened the spring allergy season, because plants are pollinating longer. In addition, an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is most likely resulting in more pollen being emitted.

10-30% of adults and up to 40% of all children suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Those with a family history and young adults are most at risk. Allergies generally begin in childhood, peak in young adulthood and disappear as we get older.

In the Midwest this year, tree pollens have been the most likely culprit in March-April. Grass pollens will take over in May and June.

While it is impossible to avoid outdoor allergens, you can help minimize your exposure by:

- keeping windows closed
- using an air conditioner
- avoiding the outdoors in early morning when pollen counts are highest
- wearing an allergy face mask when outside

While there are effective over-the-counter antihistamines to treat hay fever, symptoms can frequently “break through”.

It’s time to schedule an appointment with an allergist/immunologist when you are:

- having trouble sleeping
- encountering negative side-effects from medication
- just feeling plain miserable
- allergies are affecting your lifestyle

The end goal is the feel your best with the least amount of drugs possible.

For some, immunotherapy or allergy shots is the most effective long-term treatment. The goal of shots is to increase your tolerance to allergens so that, ultimately, you have few or no symptoms within three-five years. It also may prevent asthma in children.

Spring Allergies: Are They Getting Worse?

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