Thursday, May 07, 2009

Year-round allergy prevention is key

April showers may have washed away the thick, yellow pollen you can see, but allergens are here to stay, says a Medical College of Georgia family nurse practitioner.

"The problem is pollen allergies last almost all year, because different plants are blooming all the time," says Dr. Sandy Turner, assistant dean for community partnerships in the MCG School of Nursing.

Pollen season can last from January to October with the pollination of trees, grasses and weeds. "The yellow pine pollen is most visible, but it isn't nearly as bad as what you can't see," Dr. Turner says.

The most important way to beat seasonal allergies is to stay on top of them, she says.

Research has shown that year-round nasal irrigation can reduce sinus and upper respiratory tract infections. "If you can wash the pollen and particulate out of your nasal passages daily, it will help to reduce inflammation and clear your sinuses," Dr. Turner says.

For nasal irrigation, fill a squeeze bottle or a neti pot, which resembles a small teapot, with equal parts salt water and soda bicarbonate. Pour or squeeze the mixture in one nostril and it will flow out the other. The squeeze bottle method can be done in the shower daily.

Dr. Turner offers these additional tips:

If you've been outside during the day, shower at night to wash away the pollen before bedtime.
Wipe pets down with a wet cloth when they come inside so that they don't carry allergens into the house.
Take an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, Claritin or Zyrtec, daily. If your system becomes too accustomed to one type, switch to another. Ranitidine, which reduces stomach acid, is a histamine-2 blocker and may also help with allergies.
Use saline or over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops for itchy, burning eyes. Remove and wash contact lenses frequently to combat pollen buildup.
Drink plenty of water.
"You'll have fewer symptoms if you can keep the allergens down and keep yourself free from pollen as much as possible," Dr. Turner says.

If symptoms and drainage become overwhelming, you may need to contact your health care provider for evaluation to see if prescription medication is needed.

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