3 Tips for Treating Seasonal Allergies

April 4th 2016
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor
Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor

Now that spring is here, retail clinicians should be prepared to help patients develop plans to manage their seasonal allergies.

Now that spring is here, retail clinicians should be prepared to help patients develop plans to manage their seasonal allergies.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19.1 million individuals in the United States have been diagnosed with seasonal allergies in the last 12 months, and it is likely that many of these patients will turn to their local retail clinic in search of relief.

Tonya Winders, CEO and President of Allergy Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics, previously explained toContemporary Clinicthat allergies could negatively impact an individual’s life by impairing concentration and causing fatigue and sleep disturbances.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh it’s just allergies’…but the truth is, the quality of life studies would say that [allergy patients’] quality of life is even worse than [that of patients with] moderate to severe asthma,” Winders said.

Here are a few tips for retail clinicians to help maximize their allergy patients’ quality of life.

1. Make sure that patients are aware of the different sources of allergies.

Just because a patient presents with allergy symptoms during peak allergy season doesn’t mean that they necessarily have seasonal allergies.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is most often caused by pollen, whereas perennial allergic rhinitis is triggered by more common indoor allergens.

Aside from food and medications, allergens that could affect patients include:

  • Dust
  • Insect stings
  • Animal dander
  • Mold

Being aware of the allergen type behind allergy symptoms will help ensure that the proper steps are taken to treat and minimize discomfort. If the clinician and patient are unable to determine the source of the allergy, then the clinician should refer the patient to an allergist.

2. Discuss medication options with patients.

Allergy medications are available in many forms, including pills, liquids, inhalers, nasal sprays, eye drops, skin creams, and injections. Some of these are available OTC, while others require a prescription.

It’s critical that clinicians explain the differences between the following classes of medications available to patients with allergies and their potential side effects.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines block histamine, a symptom-causing chemical that is released into the immune system during an allergic reaction. Examples of well-known OTC and prescription antihistamines include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), fexofenadine (Allegra) and loratadine (Claritin).

The major potential side effects of antihistamines are drowsiness and fatigue.

Decongestants

Decongestants provide instant, temporary relief of nasal and sinus congestion. Popular decongestants include loratadine and pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D), fexofenadine and pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D), and oxymetazoline (Afrin).

The major potential side effects of decongestants include insomnia, headache, increased blood pressure, and irritability.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids relieve allergy symptoms by suppressing inflammation. The majority of these products require a prescription.

Well-known corticosteroid options include budesonide (Rhinocort Aqua), fluticasone propionate (Flonase), and fluticasone (Advair Diskus, Flovent Diskus).

Side effects of corticosteroids can include nasal irritation, nosebleeds, unpleasant taste or smell, and skin discoloration if the formulation is a skin cream.

3. Counsel patients on nonpharmacologic allergy defenses.

Beyond medications, there are a few lifestyle changes that patients can make to help manage their seasonal allergy symptoms.

Retail clinicians can suggest the following:

  • Wear a protective mask when gardening.
  • Check pollen counts before traveling.
  • Modify indoor home environment to keep allergens out. The CDC recommends that patients with seasonal allergies stay in air-conditioned environments as much as possible during peak hay fever season.
  • Shower after being outside to remove allergens from skin and hair. This also helps to prevent allergens from winding up on other clothes or furniture.
  • Avoid outdoor exercise in the morning when pollen counts are highest.

In fact, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends taking off shoes and clothing and showering immediately if a patient with allergies has been outside planting, weeding, or pruning. Taking a hot shower can also help soothe and clear sinuses and nasal passages, if only temporarily.

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