Allergy season arrives early

Follow these steps to control those itchy eyes and stuffy noses

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Spring has sprung -- at least from an allergy standpoint.

Trees have already started pollinating, and grasses will not be far behind. Thanks to a relatively mild winter, allergy season has started a bit earlier than usual, and it may last a month longer. This may mean extra-itchy eyes and stuffy noses for allergy sufferers in the Northwest. Patients are already coming to us with allergy flares related to the early tree pollination. One can now expect the sequential development of tree-grass-weed pollination with overlap running through the summer with little interruption. So for those who suffer from spring and summer allergies, here's what you can do:

  1. Stay ahead of your symptoms. If you are on an allergy medication regimen for spring allergies, start taking them now. It's much tougher to gain good control of your symptoms if you start with a lot of congestion and itchiness.
  2. Keep your windows closed. The warm spring air is enticing but can lead to an increased amount of outdoor pollens in the house (same with car windows).
  3. Stay inside on days you are having allergy flares. Our goal, as allergists, is to eliminate your symptoms, so this is not needed. That said, it may take some time until we get you to this point. In the meantime, it's a good idea to limit outdoor exposure on "bad" symptom days. Allergy sufferers can identify heavy pollen days by following the local pollen counts on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's National Allergy Bureau's website.
  4. Use air conditioners if possible. This is a good way to keep cool without exposing yourself to outdoor pollens, and the air filter in air conditioners will filter out allergens that are already inside.
  5. Shower. OK, so we all do this, but there are certain times this may be most beneficial for allergy sufferers. We suggest a shower prior to going to bed, keeping allergens from getting into the bed. It is also a good idea to shower just after being outside to minimize outdoor allergens from coming inside.
  6. Remember your shoes and pets may track in pollens, too. Leave shoes at the door. Take time to wash your pet's paws when they come inside for the same reason. If you hang-dry your clothes, consider doing this inside so pollen does not become trapped in them.
  7. Do not underestimate the power of saltwater.Saline nasal sprays and eye drops are helpful to wash off allergens from the areas they affect the most (the nasal cavity and the eye).
  8. See a physician. Allergen avoidance is always our first line of treatment for allergies but sometimes this is not enough. There are multiple medications that can be used and for some individuals allergy shots may be a good choice as well. A physician can work with you to help create an individualized plan to best address your allergic problems based on your allergy sensitivity, symptoms and lifestyle.

Dr. Gregory Owens specializes in allergy and immunology at The Vancouver Clinic and sees patients of all ages. You may schedule an appointment by calling TVC-APPT (360-882-2778).