ATLANTA - If you're sniffling and sneezing your way through spring, we've got help!
For mild allergies, head to your drugstore and pick up an over-the-counter antihistamine that can help block your body's overreaction to things like tree pollen. You may want to also pick up a non-prescription nasal spray.
But Atlanta Allergy and Asthma's Dr. Stanley Fineman says don't wait until your allergies are raging to start taking the medication.
"It's a lot easier and better for patients if they start treatment before they have the allergic reaction than after it's already started," Dr. Fineman says.
Some people may need more than a drugstore fix. If that's you, Fineman recommends seeing an allergist to get a diagnosis and a treatment plan.
"I think that people who have symptoms, especially triggered by pollens, need to find out exactly what they're allergic to," he says.
Once you know what is causing your allergies, check the daily pollen count.
"If a person is allergic to a particular pollen, they can look and see, 'Oh, it's going up now. I need to be more vigilant about taking my allergy medicine,'" Fineman says.
On high pollen count days, limit your time outside, especially in the early morning hours when pollen counts are highest and when it's windy.
When you're outdoors, wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
Also, take off your clothes and shower when you come back inside.
If you need treatment, Dr. Fineman says longer-term immunotherapy may help.
Doctors try to prevent allergies by gradually exposing your immune system to tiny amounts of whatever is causing your allergies. It's a therapy they're increasingly delivering not just with allergy shots, but under the patient's tongue.
"If someone, let's say, is concerned about going to an allergist because they're worried about shots, they shouldn't be, " Fineman says. "Because we have other options that are very effective for treatment besides just shots."