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How to Beat Seasonal Allergies

Private: Paige G. Wickner, MD, MPH
Contributor Paige G. Wickner, MD, MPH

If you have seasonal allergies, your symptoms may give you pause this year. Is it just a scratchy throat and fatigue? Or is it a more serious illness, like COVID-19 or flu? This year allergy symptoms may be worrisome because there are overlapping flu and COVID-symptoms and cases of both illness are rising. Other colds and other viruses also are spreading in the community and may cause similar allergies.

“The symptom overlap between COVID-19 and springtime allergies can be confusing with the start to the spring season,” said Paige G. Wickner, MD, MPH, an allergist and immunologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It’s important with rising COVID rates to test for COVID-19 to clarify. Start your springtime allergy regimen now and follow it consistently for the next 4 weeks.”

Allergy treatment options

Your allergist may recommend treatment options, including:

  • A prescription nasal steroid spray. Use the spray before allergy season starts and continue to use it daily for protection from pollen.
  • Oral antihistamines. These medications block histamine, which triggers allergic swelling. They can calm symptoms like sneezing and runny noses.
  • Saline nasal rinse with distilled water. Rinses can help wash out pollen and mucous from the nasal passages.
  • Eye drops. Drops can help reduce itchiness, redness, and swelling.
  • Immunotherapy, like allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Patients who get allergy shots receive injections of allergens over time, with increases in dosage. These patients gradually become less sensitive to that allergen. Allergy shots can work well for people allergic to pollen and for patients with asthma. SLIT treats certain allergies without injections. Patients take a small doses of an allergen under the tongue while supervised by an allergist. This exposure helps the patient build tolerance to the allergen so that symptoms improve.

Private: Paige G. Wickner, MD, MPH
Paige G. Wickner, MD, MPH

Paige G. Wickner, MD, MPH, is an allergist in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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