Seasonal allergies: Tips, treatments and solutions from an ENT
It’s April, and our dreary winter is gradually coming to an end. With cherry blossoms in bloom and temperatures making their way toward 60, allergy season is in full swing.
In the Pacific Northwest, tree pollen (especially alder) is most prevalent from February to April, grass pollen from May to July, then weed pollen in August and September.
Sepehr Oliaei, MD, an ear, nose and throat doctor at MultiCare ENT Specialists – Tacoma, recommends a three-pronged approach of avoidance, medication and allergy testing. Avoid going outside when pollen is at its peak, take medication as needed and have allergy testing done if your allergies become too severe.
Below are some additional ways to minimize exposure to pollen and some treatment options if you experience symptoms.
- Allergies tend to be worse in middle of the day, so play outside during the morning or evening to provide less exposure to pollen.
- Wear glasses and a hat to keep pollen off the face and eyes.
- If a child starts to experience a reaction while playing at a park, find a water fountain and wash their hands and face.
- It also helps to wash off after play time outdoors.
- Don’t dry their sheets outdoors in the pollen season, as they’ll accumulate pollen.
- When you sleep at night, keep your head away from any open windows.
Seasonal allergy treatments
- Taking a simple antihistamine before outdoor activity can help. Generic, over-the-counter antihistamines are very good and can cost a penny or less per dose. Don’t be afraid to avoid the expensive name brands.
- A saltwater nasal wash or a neti pot can be effective at reducing nasal secretions and congestion, and saline doesn’t have any side effects.
- Eye symptoms are primarily related to congestion. Any decongestant for the nose can also reduce eye symptoms, without the need for eye drops, which can sting and be hard to put in your child’s eyes.
- If those steps don’t work, a whole host of other medications are available by prescription:
- Intranasal steroid sprays
- Antihistamine, as a nasal spray or taken by mouth
- Eye drops
- Cromolyn, which is available by prescription or as over-the-counter nasal spray or drops
How do I know whether I should try something more than simple medication?
Generally, allergies can be managed with simple medications and avoidance if:
- Symptoms are mild and don’t limit attendance at school or work
- They don’t interfere with your ability to sleep at night
- They don’t interfere with your daytime activities
If your life is impaired by allergies, it may be time to consider allergy immunotherapy. Visit an ear, nose and throat allergy specialist for an evaluation and appropriate treatment.
Is it allergies or COVID-19?
Of course, with COVID-19 still present in our communities, any respiratory symptoms you experience may feel particularly concerning. Symptoms of seasonal allergies and COVID-19 can overlap, so if you don’t typically experience allergies, your symptoms are different than what you usually experience, or you’re simply not sure, contact your doctor for guidance. They can tell you whether you should be tested for the virus.
Editor's note: This article was originally published 4/5/2017 and updated 4/14/2021.
About The Author
Sepehr Oliaei, MD, is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) at MultiCare ENT, Sinus & Allergy Specialists - Tacoma. To schedule an appointment or evaluation, call 253-403-0065.More stories by this author