SPOKANE, Wash. - Local health providers at Kaiser Permanente, Multicare Rockwood and Providence all said the amount of patients complaining of allergy-related issues has not been much different than in years past.
All agreed that the causes, symptoms and how they differ from the flu and common cold can help sufferers feel relief a lot quicker.
The main culprit is pollen. In the fall months, there are two primary sources of pollen: weeds that grow in lawns and trees, like birch and alder, which have pines spitting out pollen onto the grass. Mold is also responsible for allergy-related symptoms, so make sure you are not leaving yard waste out long enough for it to grow.
David Ward, the district medical director for Kaiser Permanente, said indoor allergens can be just as bad.
"If you struggle with allergies, a lot of the causes could come from inside your house. The air conditioning and heating ducts. Have someone who knows what they're doing come in to clean them out so you are ready for fall and winter," said Ward.
Ward said investing in a HEPA air filter would be wise. HEPA (which stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air) air filters can trap pollutants in your home – everything from dust to pollen – and bring relief to those suffering.
If you start to feel the symptoms of allergies, you may have trouble deciphering whether it is allergies, a cold or even the flue. Dr. Leah Kobes with Multicare Rockwood Clinic said all three have similar symptoms, including runny nose, itchy/watery eyes, cough, congestion, sneezing and feeling tired.
Dr. Kobes said the flu comes on suddenly and usually is accompanied by body aches and a fever. Distinguishing between a cold and allergies is a little more challenging, but know the symptoms of a cold come on more gradually and allergies tend to last longer.
If you start to feel allergy symptoms, you don't necessarily need to rush to make a doctor's appointment.
Dr. Patricia Mayer with Providence Urgent Care said over the counter saline sprays and allergy pills can usually do the trick. The key is consistency, especially with the saline sprays. As much of a pain as they may be to administer, they must be used every day to ensure they are being used to their full potential. A combination of both yields the best results.
Dr. Mayer said her patients with high blood pressure often get worried about taking allergy pills and just let symptoms continue. she said it does not have to be the case.
"People with high blood pressure are sometimes afraid to treat their allergies with over the counter medications. It's fine for them to take things like Zyrtec and Allegra as long as it does not have Sudafed.
Sudafed is typically in medications like Claritin-D and Zyrtec-D. The 'D' stands for decongestant and that's Sudafed. Sudafed can raise your blood pressure," said Mayer.
Mayer added that these medications can help with your child's allergies, as well. Most are approved for ages two and up. Ward said if it is your child's first time experiencing allergies, call their doctor and discuss a treatment plan first. Some medications can make kids a little drowsy.
Doctors said these steps can help eliminate allergies:
- Wash your clothes after spending time outdoors
- Take a shower after outdoor activities
- Drink plenty of water
- Keep pets off furniture
- Avoid outdoor activities in the morning when allergens are worse
It might be time to call the doctor if your symptoms continue or if you find it hard to breathe. Testing can be done to pinpoint your allergies and ways to best treat them.