June 6, 2024

Keeping Ahead of Seasonal Allergies

Family Medicine
General Health
Keeping Ahead of Seasonal Allergies, Blog Graphic

Seasonal allergies are a common affliction, among both children and adults. The good news is, there are effective strategies people can implement to ease symptoms and even get ahead of them.

William Hofmann, MD, shares his expert advice on how to make seasonal allergies less disruptive.

Seasonal Allergy 101

The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies are itching and sneezing. People will often also experience nasal dripping and congestion. Many say symptoms become worse when they’re outside, and better when they return inside—especially in an air-conditioned environment. Among select individuals, symptoms become worse after a rainstorm.

Sometimes, people develop seasonal allergies over time. “I can speak from personal experience here. I didn’t have allergies when I was a child, but I get them now, spring and fall. And thank God for medication is all I can say,” states Dr. Hofmann.

Such medications include over-the-counter antihistamines such as brand names Allegra or Zyrtec, or nasal steroid sprays like Flonase or Nasacort. These are gentle on the nose and can help with itchiness in the eyes. Prescription medications are also available if OTC options are limited in their effectiveness.

Value of Allergy Testing

If medications, whether OTC or prescription, just aren’t getting the job done, Dr. Hofmann recommends allergy testing. There’s often a misconception that allergy testing will lead to extensive allergy treatment, but he assures nothing is further from the truth.

“In my book, allergy testing can be very helpful in guiding treatment. Not just therapy, but giving you an idea of when you might start to experience bad symptoms,” he shares. “I always recommend it when people are on multiple medications and just not feeling better. Oftentimes, by the time people come into the office, they’re at that point because it’s been going on for so long and they’ve tried so many different meds that nothing really seems to help. At that point, testing is our best option.”

What Does Allergy Testing Involve?

Allergy testing is a simple process that involves “prick testing” to determine exactly which substances people are allergic to—as well as how severe the allergic reaction is.

“The more severe your allergies are, the harder they are to treat medically. For example, in people who have multiple sensitivities to, say, tree pollen or to grass. Those allergens are around for a number of seasons. If people are really reactive, medicines sometimes just aren’t enough,” explains Dr. Hofmann. “Most of those folks are on multiple medications on a daily basis to begin with. They may need some support during the seasons with things like steroids just to help them through it. Those are the kinds of folks who are really going to benefit from further allergy treatment.”

Immunotherapy as a Treatment Option

One further treatment Dr. Hofmann employs is immunotherapy. This approach is designed to “cure” an allergy. There are two basic forms. One is done through an injection, which is called subcutaneous therapy. Patients receive a shot once a week that is tailored to their specific allergy profile. This type of treatment may need to continue anywhere from a few years to several. However, the data indicates that more than 90% of patients ultimately show improvement.

The second approach is called sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Hofmann notes that this therapy is not new to the United States, but it is a bit new in the way it’s administered—once a day, every day, with medicated drops under the tongue.

“The drops are very effective. I saw my son change dramatically with these over the course of a couple of years, and it’s been a godsend for him. I guess a good way of looking at it, too, is the drops are more convenient for patients. They can take the drops on vacation. Kids don’t need to worry about getting a shot. Adults don’t need to get a shot. It makes people pretty happy.”