In the Spotlight
Enjoy the Season: Manage Your Allergies
Warmer weather, birds singing, trees and flowers blooming - what's not to like about spring? If you ask allergy sufferers, they'll say "plenty" - like runny noses, itching eyes and sneezing fits.
Seasonal allergies are no fun. But the good news is there are ways to manage them. Dr. Joseph Yusin, Chief of Allergy and Immunology at the Greater Los Angeles VA Medical Center, suggests several ways to keep allergy symptoms in check.
Try to avoid contact with pollen as much as possible.
Shut your house and car windows and doors. Pollen in the air, especially from trees, can blow into your home and car through open windows and doors. Keep pollen out by keeping windows and doors shut.
Buy a HEPA filter. These filters trap air particles as they pass through an air purifier. You can install a HEPA filter in your air conditioning system or buy one that plugs into an electrical socket vacuum.
Pollen that rides into your home on your pet, your clothes and your shoes can end up on your carpets and floors. Vacuuming can help keep pollen out of your house.
Wash your clothes and body. Throw your clothes in the wash after you have been outside and don't forget to shower to remove pollen that can cling to your hair and skin.
Some of the following natural remedies work for people with allergies. Yusin advises Veterans to discuss these remedies with their health care providers before using them.
Nasal irrigation. Flushing the nasal passages with a salt and water solution can help unclog stuffy noses that could cause headaches and face pain. Yusin recommends using a neti pot - a small, ceramic pot with a spout - with distilled water.
Herbal supplements. While some Chinese herbs have been shown to help people with allergies, they could have side effects. These herbs also could interact with certain medicines. Since many Veterans take a lot of different medications, it is especially important that they consult their providers about supplements.
Acupuncture. No good studies show that acupuncture works for allergies, according to Yusin. He recommends trying avoidance measures and other treatments before acupuncture.
Medicines you can buy without a prescription are okay for mild allergies and symptoms, such as a runny nose, according to Yusin. But some products, like those that relieve clogged nasal passages, can bump up blood pressure if overused.
Nasal steroid sprays are among the best prescription medicines for allergies, according to Yusin. If your health care provider prescribes one of these sprays, be sure to learn how to use it properly and read about possible side effects. Yusin said he prescribes allergy shots as a last resort.
When to See a Doctor
How do you know when to treat your allergies on your own and when to see your health care provider? Consider these criteria:
Frequency. If your allergies do not act up too often, you can try to manage them on your own with over-the-counter products.
Severity. You also can try to manage your symptoms if they are mild. However, see a doctor if your allergy symptoms are severe or become severe. Severe symptoms are more extreme and may interfere with your ability to function normally. Some people have to cut back on their usual daily activities, while others just stay home.
How My HealtheVet Can Help
You can use the Health History section of My HealtheVet to record information about allergies and adverse reactions for your health care team's review. You also can use My HealtheVet to keep track of allergy and other medicines you are taking and to order prescriptions. My HealtheVet's allergy user guide (below) has information on how to use this section of the website.
VA Allergies user guide from My HealtheVet (PDF)
General information about pollen and other allergies
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
More information about pollen and pollen allergies from the National Institutes of Health
Updated May 29, 2012