Seasonal Allergy Self-Care Guide: (Always see a Doctor if you experience wheezing, shortness of breath or if Over The Counter (OTC)  treatments fail)
So you’re outside enjoying the first few days of sun after making it through 6 straight months of clouds and rain.  It’s warm, you have a beach towel spread out on the grass, and the Frisbee is airborne after a long winter under a pile of sweaters.  Suddenly, you’re sneezing, your throat is itchy, and your eyes feel like they’re on fire…  

Welcome to Spring in Eugene.  The Willamette Valley has a variety of trees, weeds, and grasses filling the air with plant pollen.  When pollen finds its intended target, a new baby plant can result, but when it finds your mouth, nose and eyes, Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (a.k.a. hay fever) can make your life miserable.  Even if you didn’t have allergies back in (insert home town here), it’s entirely possible that Eugene has a plant that will drive your immune system nuts. 

The good news is you don’t have to just suck it up and hope the rain returns.  There is hope:  
Non Prescription Treatments:

Non Drowsy Antihistamines (Claritin/loratadine, Zyrtec/cetirizine, Allegra/fexofenadine) – these are the first-line, go-to meds that every allergy sufferer should have in their arsenal.  Best taken regularly during the allergy season, these drugs block the chemical signal (histamine) that pollen tricks your body into releasing. 

Antihistamine Eye Drops (Ketotifen, Zaditor) – goes directly to the site of one of the most uncomfortable symptoms allergy sufferers experience. Newer ones last a full 12-hours so you only have to treat twice a day.

Steroid Nasal Spray (Flonase, Nasacort) – formerly prescription only, this is like hydrocortisone for your nose.  Reduces congestion, inflammation, and runny nose.  Works best if you start before symptoms are full-blown and continue using throughout the allergy season.  There are other (prescription) nasal sprays that are discussed below.

NasalCrom Nasal Spray - Another very effective nasal spray.  This one is usually used if steroid nasal sprays don't relieve symptoms fully.  The only drawback is that it must be used several times a day consistently for it to work best.

Other Items – Saline nasal rinse, artificial tears, tissues, and nasal decongestant sprays all have their place if the first three options aren’t fully effective.  Ask your pharmacist.

Pollen masks – not exactly a fashion accessory, but they can limit mouth/nose exposure to pollen when outside.

Prescription Treatments (requires a physician/clinician appointment):

Inhalers – both steroid (like QVar) and rescue (albuterol) inhalers.  These are usually prescribed for allergy-induced asthma and other reactive airway issues.

Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) – yes, this is prescription-only in Oregon.  A very effective nasal decongestant, but your doctor must prescribe it for you due to Oregon’s amphetamine control act (Sudafed is a precursor – just watch Breaking Bad)

Prednisone – usually reserved for the most severe cases due to the potential side effects if over used. 

Singulair (montelukast) – a LTR (leukotriene receptor) blocker.  Works on a different allergy mediator than the antihistamines and may be helpful if antihistamines alone don’t fully control symptoms.

Immunotherapy - This strategy uses small doses of an allergen at regular intervals to gradually desensitize your body's immune response to pollen.  It can definitely reduce your reliance on medication to manage symptoms, but it must be started well before the allergy season begins for optimal results and it requires office visits.

Non-Drug Treatments (best feature: they’re free)

Keep an eye on pollen levels – you can find a good pollen level counter **HERE**.  Know what you’re allergic to (trees, grasses, weeds) and when those levels go up, make sure you’re prepared.

Watch the time of day - pollen levels peak between 5AM and 10AM and again at dusk so if you're planning on a run, try to choose a lower-pollen time of day.

Wear glasses/sunglasses when outside – especially when biking/running/skateboarding.  Not only will you look cooler, but it will keep some of the pollen in the air from landing in your eyes.

Shower and change clothes after spending time outside - it doesn't matter if you're running, biking, or just walking to class.  The simple act of moving through pollen-filled air will get it on you and your clothes.   A shower will wash all of the pollen off of your hair and skin which will prevent it from creeping into your eyes/mouth when you sack out on the couch.  A saline nasal rinse can help remove pollen in your nasal passages.  Washing clothing and bedding regularly can also help reduce exposure.

Close your windows! - Sure the cool breeze is cheaper than air conditioning, but it’s also blowing airborne pollen right into your room or car.  From there it's a very short trip into your nose/mouth/eyes.  If you need air movement in your house/dorm, consider buying a fan and leave your windows closed.

Lastly, if all else fails, come in and see us.  The staff at the Health Center see hundreds of allergy sufferers every year, so we can probably help you out!