Seasonal allergies can cause symptoms like runny nose, sneezing and an itchy throat that can range in severity from uncomfortable to unbearable. Allergens like pollen and mold can trigger these symptoms, especially in the spring, and some people are more affected by certain types of allergens than others. Robert Valentine, M.D. from Utica Park Clinic in Muskogee discusses the causes of seasonal allergies, how to treat the symptoms and what to do if you have an allergy attack.
What are allergies?
“Seasonal allergies occur when the body overreacts to something in the environment. In Oklahoma, we are fortunate to have plenty of grass, weeds, trees and a moist environment that makes mold common,” said Dr. Valentine. “Dust and indoor insects also have the potential to irritate people's allergies.”
These allergens can produce particles in the air, and when those particles landed on the tissue inside the nose or eyes or throat, they can cause irritation.
“When our tissues are irritated, they produce mucus, stimulate itching, sneezing, coughing and sometimes make us feel bad all over,” said Dr. Valentine.
How can you treat allergy symptoms?
Allergies can produce a range of physical responses in the body, and some are more uncomfortable and disruptive than others.
“Allergies can produce itchy blurry eyes, runny nose, production of mucus and that mucus can run down the back of the throat,” said Dr. Valentine. “Allergies can be experienced differently by different people. Both because different particles go to different locations in the body and because different people are more sensitive in different areas. Allergies can feel different at different times to the same person.”
You can prevent allergy attacks by suppressing your seasonal allergy response. This can be accomplished by using an antihistamine daily for at least two weeks before the new season begins and throughout the season. Those with year-round allergies can take an oral antihistamine and steroid nasal spray every day of the year.
“Generally, allergies can be treated with over-the-counter medicines for allergies or antihistamines. Antihistamines have been around for a long time and are safe to use. Sometimes people may choose to take a decongestant, which should be used with caution because those can raise blood pressure and cause other problems,” said Dr. Valentine.
Is a warming climate making allergies worse?
Rising temperatures caused by climate change are making allergy seasons longer and causing worsening air quality issues. Those longer seasons can cause more allergy attacks and trigger asthma for longer periods of time in some people.
“Certainly, a warm and moist climate promotes the growth of grasses trees and mold and therefore would promote allergies,” said Dr. Valentine. “Personally, I strongly prefer avoiding the allergen altogether! If possible, you can stay indoors if you are allergic to pollen, replace air filters, wear masks when encountering high allergen loads. If your allergies seem to get worse indoors you can look for sources of mold such as carpet or leaks and replace or repair those.”
What should you do if you experience severe allergies or an allergy attack?
“If you are experiencing an allergy attack, I would like you to come see me because that is what I do for living,” said Dr. Valentine. “But many people get rid of relief with over-the-counter medicines.”
For treatments specific to your allergy, Dr. Valentine recommends seeing an allergy specialist.
"When you go and see an allergist, they will test for specifically what you are allergic to and then they can offer you a serum that will make you immune to that over time,” said Dr. Valentine. “It is by far my preferred treatment.”
To learn more about Dr. Valentine or to make an appointment, click here or call 539-239-5240.