(Release) While most of us can't wait to get out and enjoy the bright sunshine, green grass and blossoming flowers, the change of season signals the start of spring allergies for an estimated 40 million Americans.
Experts anticipate allergy sufferers to experience the first signs of the season within the next week, but say there are ways to avoid being sidelined by troublesome symptoms.
"More Americans than ever before report suffering from seasonal allergies," said Anju Peters, MD, allergist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "There are no cures for allergies, but with lifestyle modifications and medications individuals with allergies should be able to lead a normal, healthy life."
The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen and in the "Windy City" it can spread for miles, creating a path of misery for allergy sufferers along the way. When pollen gets into the nose of someone who's allergic, their immune system kicks into overdrive. Histamine and other substances are released that cause runny nose, stuffiness, coughing, itchy eyes, sneezing, and sinus inflammation.
"If allergies aren't treated properly the symptoms can take a toll on a person's quality of life," said Dr. Peters. "Symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and loss of sleep can result in low productivity at school and work. Allergies can also trigger asthma in some individuals."
While it's nearly impossible to completely avoid allergies, Dr. Peters says there are steps you can take to find relief.
Doctors treat allergies with a number of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. If you suffer from mild symptoms start with over-the-counter remedies.
"There are a variety of different medications out there to help with allergies. Some common options include antihistamines which reduce sneezing, sniffling and itching. Decongestants may help with the stuffiness but should not be taken if you have high blood pressure. There are also nasal sprays that can be prescribed by your physician and are very effective in treating allergies," said Peters.
If you find that over-the-counter remedies still aren't bringing relief, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss other options such as allergy shots.