It’s Spring (Ah-choo!)

Ahh, spring in Atlanta. Or more appropriately, ah-choo! Though the dogwoods and daffodils are beautiful, the pollen can be a pain in the nose. According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. But you don’t have to be one of them—there are ways to manage your allergies. We spoke with Jignesh R. Dholaria, M.D., with WellStar Medical Group, Family Medicine, to get some tips.

How can I tell if it’s a cold or seasonal allergies?
A cold usually begins with symptoms of nasal discharge, nasal obstruction, a dry or scratchy throat and, later, a cough. You might also experience sneezing, fatigue, headaches and pressure/discomfort in your ears and face. Symptoms of a cold usually start about 24 to 72 hours after exposure and can persist for three to 10 days. With seasonal allergies, you can have attacks of violent sneezing, thin nasal mucous, nasal obstruction, itching/tearing/burning of the eyes, postnasal drip, cough, irritability and fatigue. The symptoms can start suddenly and last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or longer.

Every spring I suffer with sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and itchy eyes. How can I minimize these symptoms?
If these symptoms occur around the same time every year, you could benefit from starting medications a week or two before then to minimize the symptoms.

Do over-the-counter medications work? Are they safe? What are the best ones?
There are multiple treatment options depending on the symptoms you are experiencing. Over- the-counter (OTC) nasal decongestants can help reduce swelling in the nose. OTC steroid nasal sprays, which usually take a week to start working, are effective in treating congestion and post-nasal drip. Oral antihistamines will help stop itching, sneezing and runny nose symptoms, while oral nasal decongestants help reduce stuffy nose symptoms. No specific brands are superior. Of course, all medications have risks and side effects; specific treatment depends on your symptoms and should be discussed with your doctor.

Do sinus rinses work?
Salt water nasal rinses do help clean the inside of nose and rid it of pollen. They can be helpful; there are many effective devices to help rinse the nose.

Should I stay inside when pollen counts are high? How can I reduce my exposure?
Limit your outdoor exposure if possible and be sure to avoid opening your car and home windows. If you must be outside, and you have allergy symptoms, wear a dust mask.

Are allergy injections effective? How do I know if I need them?
Allergy shots are usually given by an allergy doctor who determines if they are the right treatment for you, based on specific criteria. Given every week or monthly, the injections usually contain tiny amounts of allergens. People find that this treatment reduces symptoms, but can take months to work.

How do I know if I should see a doctor?
It’s an individual choice, but your physician is a good resource for information about the most appropriate medications to use for your symptoms. You should certainly see your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that you have not had before or if you have symptoms that are not resolving. ❍

Dr. Dholaria practices family medicine at WellStar Medical Group Family Medicine, 260  Rucker Road, Suite 400, Alpharetta, 30004. 470-956-4540.