Seasonal allergies, also referred to as “hay fever,” are rampant in the south. Seasonal allergies, like other allergies, develop when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment that typically causes no problem in most people. It can cause sneezing, itchy or red eyes, sore throat, itching of the throat or ears, stuffy nose, headaches, and or a runny nose. Many people have seasonal allergies as children or young adults and, the life-long symptoms can wax and wane over time.
According to recent news broadcast that aired on WWLTV, The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says New Orleans is one of the worst places to live for people who have allergies. Conferring is Dr. Ken Paris, a pediatric allergist and immunology specialist with LSU Health Science Center, “Allergy season is pretty much year round in New Orleans. It starts in the spring with tree pollen and extends into the summer with grass. Since we don’t always freeze in the winter, grass pollen can go into the winter months.”
Seasonal allergies are usually diagnosed by your doctor or a medical provider after having performed an exam and possibly allergy testing. Although allergy testing is not performed at Loyola Student Health, you can be treated based on your symptoms and/or referred to a local allergist. Allergy shots are usually reserved for those individuals with severe allergies that have been tested by a specialist.
Treatment for seasonal allergies includes salt water nose rinses; steroid nose sprays, antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra, and decongestants. In fact, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently released two steroid nasal sprays, Flonase and Nasacort that assist in decreasing the inflammation that occurs in the nasal passageways during the allergy season. These medications, once only available by prescription, are now sold over the counter in the allergy section at your local drugstore.
The best way to prevent seasonal allergies is to know your triggers, start taking antihistamines 2-4 weeks before the environmental exposure, and to try to avoid those exposures as much as possible. According to the medical website www.uptodate.com, ways to prevent exposures include the following:
- Stay indoors on windy days.
- If you are outside, change and wash your clothes as soon as you remove them.
- Keep your windows to your car and homes closed during the spring and, use the air conditioner.
- Take a shower before bed to wash off the pollen from your hair and skin.
- Use dust mite pillow covers.
For more information about this topic and other health-related concerns, please call Loyola’s Student Health Services at 504-865-3326