Allergies can effect people all year round, but springtime is when they’re most likely to occur. Dr Joe Kosterich talks about springtime allergies, including what causes them, why you get them in spring, and what to do to help prevent or treat them.

Video: Allergies

Transcript

Allergies can affect people all year round but springtime is when they are most likely to occur.

Hi, I’m Dr. Joe, and in this video we’re going to talk about what you can do with springtime allergies.

It is very, very common to get symptoms like runny nose, watery eyes, some people get a dry throat, some people get a bit of a scratching in the nose or the throat, and either a blocked or runny nose.

In springtime, these symptoms are most common. It will vary from year to year, and that will be a function of prevailing wind conditions, and also what you’re sensitive to. Now the commonest forms of allergies are to different grasses – and there are quite a few different ones – to dust and dust mite, and also to mould. There are literally thousands of different things people can be allergic to but dust, grasses, moulds and pollens are probably the most common ones.

Why does it tend to happen in springtime?

Springtime is when we get germination so hence we get a lot of spores and seeds released into the atmosphere.

So we all know what the symptoms are, the next thing people want to know of course is what can we do about it. To a certain degree there is no absolute cure for allergies and hayfever, if there was, nobody would suffer from them. So what we’re aiming to do is improve the symptoms as best we can.

First and foremost, if it is possible to avoid certain allergens then that’s the thing to do. That’s not always going to be possible or practical, but if you know you’re allergic to grass, then perhaps it’s not a good idea to mow the lawn so you might be able to get someone else to do that for you. If you know you’re allergic and sensitive to dust, then it might be better not to do the mattress thumping yourself as part of the spring cleaning. So simple avoidance can help.

What sort of other things can one do? There are a range of medications that can be used, and broadly there are two main categories which are antihistamine medications – most of these are available over the counter and don’t need a prescription. There are two types, those that can make you sleepy as a side effect and those that don’t make you sleepy as a side effect. Their usefulness is about the same: it’s not that one is stronger or weaker than the other. The ones that don’t make you sleepy can sometimes be a little bit more expensive and what you’re paying for is just that: they don’t make you sleepy.

There are some nasal sprays that can be used and again, some are over the counter. The ones that dry the nose really should only be used for a day or two and as little as possible, because whilst in the short term they can help, in the medium term they can actually make things a bit worse.

There are some other nasal sprays which have a mild hydrocortisone in them – some are over the counter and others are on prescription. These don’t have an immediate impact but can shrink down the nasal linings a little bit and improve things in the medium to long term. So that’s something you can chat about with your doctor.

For people who have more severe symptoms, they can consider having more formal allergy tests done to try and work out exactly what it is that you’re sensitive to. Now if people have one or two specific allergies, one of their options may be to be desensitised. This is a form of treatment that goes over an extended period of time and is designed to reduce your sensitivity to what you’re allergic to. This is done from a series of injections were you’re exposed to what you’re allergic to in just gradually increasing amounts. This doesn’t work perfectly for everybody, but those who have severe symptoms often find they do get some benefit – it is something to have a chat about with your doctor.

Springtime is allergy season. One of the things to keep in mind is that even if you do suffer a little bit of hayfever, the season does pass and the symptoms subside.

So we’ve looked at simple things like avoidance where possible or practical, different medications can be used and most of these can be used in children above the age of two but always discuss with your doctor. Another really simple tip that can help with allergy symptoms is drinking lots of water, it’s not a cure but it’s another simple thing that can help.

Hayfever is annoying but do keep in mind that is in not a serious condition; no one ever dies from hayfever. So focus on doing the simple things and see if you can enjoy your springtime amongst the flowers managing your hayfever.

More information

Spring allergies For more information on spring allergies, including why people get allergies, how allergies affect you and how to prevent them, as well as some useful animations and videos, see Spring Allergies.