This February was unseasonably warm. You may have noticed the trees started blooming early, which means spring allergies started sooner than normal. But winter isn’t quite over, so this season’s allergies are still around. What should you do if you suffer from both?
Winters in this region are known for mold and dust allergies. Because winters here are wet, it’s an ideal environment for mold to grow. And because our homes were closed up and the heat was on, dust was kicked up, aggravating some people’s dust allergies. However, as spring arrives they may have to deal with allergies caused by tree pollens, grass pollens, and molds, too.
Symptoms of both spring and winter allergies include sneezing, nasal stuffiness, a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and coughing.
Are they spring allergies? Winter allergies? Both?
The easiest way to diagnose if you have winter or spring allergies is to consult your personal history, said Roy Lewis, MD, the Otolaryngologist in CEENTA’s Mooresville office. If you are congested, itchy, and sneezing in the winter, spring, or fall, you likely have allergies that correspond to one or more seasons.
“Some patients have symptoms all year,” Dr. Lewis said.
However, while history is a good indicator of your allergies, Dr. Lewis said, an allergy test is the best way to identify what your allergies are and how sensitive you are to those allergens.
How do I treat my allergies?
Fortunately, treatment plans are usually the same for multiple types of allergies, and can include three specific actions, said Mark Weigel, MD, an Otolaryngologist in CEENTA’s Huntersville office.
The first is to lessen exposure to common allergens. The second is to use over-the-counter and prescription medications that are focused on lessening the body's reaction to allergens. The third is the introduction of allergy desensitization via immunotherapy.
“These three measures in combination will provide the best quality of life during times of peak allergen exposure,” Dr. Weigel said.
Avoidance is the best way to minimize exposure to allergens. For mold allergies, keep your living area dry enough to prevent it from growing. For dust allergies, make sure air filters are working properly and bedclothes are washed in hot water once a week. For pollen allergies, keep your windows shut to prevent pollen from entering your house. Check the pollen count daily and try to avoid going outside on days it’s high. Pollen counts are higher in the morning, so try to avoid going out in the mornings if you can.
Over-the-counter medicines can be useful in treating spring or winter allergies. Rinsing your nose with saline after exposure to an offending allergen helps decrease your response, too.
If over-the-counter medicines aren’t effective, however, you may want to consider additional treatment. ENT doctors at CEENTA can test you for a variety of allergies and determine exactly what you are allergic to. Your doctor can then formulate a treatment plan to best suit your needs. That plan may include immunotherapy. Immunotherapy comes in shots, sublingual drops, or sublingual tablets. With immunotherapy you would first be given regular, gradually-increasing doses of your allergens to build up a tolerance to them. You would then receive regular maintenance doses for the next 3-5 years.
Immunotherapy is available at all offices that offer allergy treatment. Two of our offices – Huntersville and Mooresville – even offer extended hours on Wednesdays to accommodate allergy patients who might not be able to make it during the normal workday. So no matter the season or what your schedule looks like, CEENTA can help make your breathing easier.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment to get tested for allergies, call 704-295-3000.