We were all feeling a bit congested in the office today, so I took the time to look up the pollen count on weather.com. Lo and behold we had jumped to a “high” level of tree pollen – oak and pine specifically.
We were also all curious as to what we could possibly do to feel better and be able to enjoy the beautiful spring days. We asked Dr. Allen Marshall, an otolaryngologist with WakeMed Physician Practices – ENT, to help us understand allergies and what we can do to prevent or avoid the itchy, sneezy, snotty side effects.
North Carolina: A Great Place for Plants & Trees…and Allergies
North Carolina is a particularly bad state for allergies, and Raleigh is always pretty high on the list for bad seasonal allergies. The reasons are pretty simple. Our environment is a great place for plants and trees that produce allergy-causing pollen to grow.
You might be surprised to learn, however, that the yellow pollen coating your car, driveway and every other surface outside right now is not typically the kind of pollen that causes allergies. But this yellow pollen is a good sign that other allergy producing pollen (not visible to the eye) has arrived.
The best way to prevent allergies is to avoid allergens altogether. Of course, we know this is not feasible. However, it is possible to limit your exposure to allergens.
Quick Tips to Lower Allergens:
- Shower or bathe after spending time outdoors.
- Wash your sheets and clothes often.
- Limit your time outside during peak pollen seasons.
- Keeping the doors and windows closed during high pollen count seasons may also help.
Contrary to popular belief, visible yellow pine pollen does not typically cause allergies. But the yellow pollen clouds are a sign that other pollens that do cause allergies have arrived.
Ways to Control Allergy Symptoms
Saline Nasal Sprays, Neti Pots
To control symptoms associated with nasal allergies, try using saline nasal sprays and Neti Pots. They actually wash allergens and the reactive mucus out of the nose. The salt has the added benefit of drawing fluid out of the nose. Dry, itchy eyes can also be combated with lubricating eye drops. Since all of these solutions contain zero medications, they can be used frequently as needed throughout the day.
Oral Antihistamines & Sprays
Various over the counter oral antihistamines are also an effective way to combat allergies and the associated nasal congestion. Antihistamines that contain decongestants may impact blood pressure, so those with known high blood pressure should check with a physician before taking these medications regularly.
There are also several prescription allergy medicines that are quite effective, including oral antihistamines and topical nasal steroid or antihistamine sprays.
Persistent Allergy Issues? See Your Doctor.
If you have an allergic flair-up and symptoms are severe, it is probably a very good idea to see a doctor. Chronic allergies can progress to sinusitis. Cardinal symptoms of sinusitis include facial pressure and pain in the face, forehead or teeth. If you have these symptoms and they persist for more than a week, then you may have sinusitis.
About Allen Marshall, MD
Dr. Allen Marshall is an ear, nose and throat specialist who is board certified in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. His clinical interests are pediatric and adult ENT problems, including sinus disorders and sinus surgery, thyroid and parathyroid surgery, parotid gland surgery, hearing loss and common ear disease.