Seasonal Allergy Self-Care Guide:
Welcome to Spring in Eugene. The Willamette Valley has a huge variety of
trees, weeds, and grasses filling the air with plant pollen, which can cause Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (aka Hay Fever) when it hits your eyes, nose, and mouth. 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:
Use the links below for specific symptoms, or scroll through for the complete package.
Short Video done by the campus news station - lots of great info for about a minute of your time:
These are the go-to meds that every allergy sufferer should have in their arsenal. They work even better if you start taking them before
your allergies reach a critical point. There are three main medications available without a prescription - Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra. Remember the -D versions of all of these are prescription only in Oregon.
We generally recommend this one as a first choice for those who have not tried an antihistamine before. It's once daily, non-drowsy, and really inexpensive ($5 or less per month). In some cases it can be less effective than the other options, but it's still a solid option for starters.
A very effective antihistamine. Slightly more likely to cause drowsiness than Claritin, but manageable if you take your daily dose right before bedtime. Also very inexpensive ($5-6/month) so it's the next logical step if Claritin isn't doing the job.
This is also a very effective antihistamine. The only reason it is listed third is that it is more expensive ($15-20/month) than either Claritin or Zyrtec. It's still a great choice, especially if the other two aren't fully effective.
D (Decongestant) Versions:
In Oregon, all Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) containing products (including Claritin-D, Allegra-D, and Zyrtec-D) are controlled substances and require a prescription due to the amphetamine precursor control laws.
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Allergy Nasal Sprays
As of 2015, both Nasacort and Flonase are over the counter in their full original prescription strength. These are very effective at managing nasal congestion, inflammation, and drainage (runny nose). They are also safe to use for extended periods in contrast to decongestant nasal sprays which must not be used for more then 3 days. In order for them to work properly you must
commit to using them every day during the allergy season, and it may take several days to take full effect. Don't give up though, it's worth it!
An alternative (or addition to) Nasacort/Flonase is NasalCrom. It is not a steroid, but like them, it is safe to use for extended periods. The main drawback is that you need to use it 3-4 times per day and it may take 2-4 weeks for full effect.
Nasal decongestant sprays like Afrin or Neo-Synephrine are very tempting to use continuously because they're fast and effective, but don't do it!
Using these for more than 3 days straight will cause a condition known as rebound congestion
which is just a fancy way to say that your nose is now hooked on the spray.
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Antihistamine eye drops can provide almost
immediate relief for itchy, watery eyes due to allergies. We recommend
Alaway (ketotifen) as the top choice - it works quickly and lasts for 12 hours
so you only have to use it twice a day. Visine-A is also a decent choice,
especially if your eyes are very red, but it needs to be used more often.
We don't recommend plain Visine since it doesn't do anything to actually block
allergies and may cause problems if used long term.
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If you've gone through everything above and are still struggling with allergies, there are a few more options to consider. The following items are less common, more complicated, or both, but still worth considering.
Not exactly a fashion accessory, but may help to limit exposure to pollen, especially when running, biking, or walking outside.
Sinus rinse kits, artificial tears, tissues, and yes even decongestant nasal sprays have their place in allergy treatment. Ask your pharmacist.
Other Strategies that Can Help:
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- Keep an eye on pollen levels - they can vary from day to day and even hour to hour. Pollen levels generally peak between 5 and 10AM and again at dusk, making these good times to avoid outdoor activities. You can find a good daily pollen count chart
- Wearing glasses/sunglasses while outside can help keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Take a shower and change clothes when you get home, especially before getting into bed or laying on the couch. Just washing/rinsing your hair will probably not remove pollen completely. Using a saline nasal rinse can help get pollen out of your nasal passages.
- Keep your windows closed at all times. It's very tempting to take advantage of the free A/C in the evening hours, but that gentle breeze is blowing pollen right into your living space.
When to See a Doctor/Clinician
The above strategies are generally very helpful in treating the 'standard' symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis (AKA Hayfever) like itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and scratchy/sore throat. They are not meant to be used to treat more severe asthma-like reactions such as wheezing, cough, shortness of breath or anaphylaxis (a very serious allergic reaction). If you experience the chronic respiratory symptoms described above, or if you have a prior diagnosis of allergy-induced asthma, call the appointment desk at (541)346-2770
and make an appointment with one of our clinicians. There are a number of highly effective medications like albuterol and/or steroid inhalers, prednisone, Singulair, and yes even Sudafed (in Oregon) that can make severe allergies/asthma much more manageable and require a prescription.
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